Irom Sharmila: “Thank you for 90 votes”

Sympathy and support pour in for Irom Sharmila, who lost the election in Manipur securing only 90 votes, after she thanks people on Facebook

Photo by Karun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Karun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

Decent people are advised to get into politics to cleanse the system. But most of them have found electoral politics too murky to handle.

“The Manipuri Sumang Lila ridicule “Nakhon phei, pung thillu” says it all. Roughly (you can have a good voice but that does not mean you can drum well),” commented an editorial titled: ‘Respect the mandate’ on the electoral defeat of Irom Sharmila—long-touted as the Iron Lady of Manipur—in Imphal Free Press on March 13. The edit added that “Nobody will ever doubt Sharmila’s star status as a non-violent resistance fighter, but she can be a bad politician.”

“....the pedestal she had been placed on for so long made Sharmila develop hubris that made her blind to all cautions by well-wishers, including this newspaper, that there is much more to politics than just removal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act),” it added.

Sharmila, on the other hand, wrote four words on her Facebook wall this Sunday: ‘Thanks for 90 votes’, and left tens of thousands of people filled with disbelief and indignation across the country, taking the shine off celebrations of several victories.

Good, sensitive people are always advised to get into electoral politics to usher in change. But electoral politics invariably makes it clear in this country that without money, muscle, political clout they cannot win. Her one-liner on her Facebook wall elicited reactions from across the country and comments poured in.

Jayram Shinde reacted remorsefully: “Irom, it’s not your defeat. It’s public that has got defeated. Election process has got defeated. Struggle has got defeated. Hope has got defeated. Truth has got defeated. Power has won again. For whom did you stand up? These people are in slumber. They like thrill, power and oppression. They liked you fasting and imprisoned but they didn’t like you contesting election. 90 votes: are you kidding me! Even the NOTA option got more than 140 votes. This has established only one thing: one can’t win elections on the basis of issues, truth and struggle and without resources, money and trickery. Politics operates on the principle of hook and crook.”

After her electoral debacle, even though an emotional Sharmila, 44, declared she would quit politics, the reactions online recalled how leaders like Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Ram Manohar Lohiya, Acharya Narendra Dev, Morarji Desai, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee also lost elections in their political career.

“We belong to the same society that failed Dr Ambedkar in the very first election of independent India in 1952 and barred the constitution maker from entering the temple of constitution itself. Later, he made his entry in the Rajya Sabha from West Bengal,” commented Rahul Mandal, adding that “by quitting electoral politics Irom Sharmila has put a tight slap on our face. We don't deserve persons like Sharmila in our unholy politics.”

Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar posted on Facebook “Irom Sharmila lost elections. Soni Sori lost elections. Dayamani Barla lost elections. Medha Patkar lost elections.”

“You were bound to lose. You failed us, you failed the country, you failed to sell us the illusion we want to live,” commented Saumya Iwn on Facebook, adding, “The ‘Iron Lady’ was up against ‘The Lion of Gujarat’. He knows his business; he could sell an illusion of a developed nation to some, the illusion of a Hindu Rashtra to others, the illusion of revenge from the rich for his poor supporters and the illusion of a strong nation for the patriots.”

Expressing solidarity with Sharmila, Prem Krishan Sharma, commented on her Facebook post: “I can vouch that even if Mahatama Gandhi was a candidate, he too would have got same number of votes as you (did). But this could not have lowered his status. You also stand on the same high pedestal.”

And in the same spirit, Kalim Beig commented: “Thank God Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Chandrasekhar Azad and Ashfaqulla are not alive today. Had they contested elections in today's time they too would have ended up securing votes in double digits. A black day for democracy!”

Commented Bikash K Bhattacharya: “Electoral politics is much about successfully developing a political economy where the stake holders engage in endless calculations which lead to the result. You are far beyond what the numbers suggest. You will always be in the hearts of millions who are still haunted by Manorama's spectre...”

“Irom Sharmila gets only 90 votes whereas Raja Bhaiya bags 1,30,000. This is what democracy is all about,” commented AK Mishra.

A poet and a human rights activist, Sharmila started her fast in November 2000 for revocation of AFSPA, soon after the Malom massacre on November 2, 2000, in which 10 civilians were shot dead by Assam Rifles. She ended her 16-year-old long fast with a dab of honey in August last year, declaring with tears in her eyes: “I want to join politics as I've been called the Iron lady of Manipur and I want to live up to that name.”

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Published: 13 Mar 2017, 7:28 PM