Erendro leichombam, praja, manipur assembly election 2017
Erendro Leichombam, Convenor of PRAJA, interacting with people of Manipur during campaigning.Facebook

Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA), the newest party in Manipur formed by Irom Sharmila after she broke her 16-year long fast and said that she would be joining politics, has some unique ideas about how to strengthen the Northeastern state's economy.

Also read: Manipur Assembly elections 2017: Look who the BJP is tapping to be its trump card in the polls

Apart from focusing on the economy, the party is demanding accountability from Chief Minister Okrom Ibobi Singh for his last 15 years as the chief minister. The new party will also be looking to punish the older government for any corrupt practises.

Being a party of young people, it is also using social media to spread its word and garner attention. Made with no political godfather backing them, PRJA has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the 2017 Manipur Assembly elections.

The party, the acronym for which means "the people," has been going door-to-door for campaigning and wants to spend as less as Rs 5 lakh per constituency on the same. 

International Business Times India spoke to PRJA's convenor Erendro Leichombam, a 33-year-old who came back to India four years ago after spending a decade studying and working in the US. Leichombam, a graduate from the Harvard University, is a former fellow at the World Bank and a former consultant at  UNDP. 

"I came back four years ago from the US. I have lived and worked there for 10 years. I did my Bachelors and Masters from there. My brothers are still there. But, I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to do something for Manipur. At some point, I decided I wanna go home and bring some change. When I was in US I started an advocacy group -- Manipur international centre. I talked about afspa, went to research centres, universities and talked about issues in Manipur. While doing that I became more political. At one point I told myself I have done as much as I can from the international level and I think I should go back now," he said.

"I have not gone back since then..passport is dusty now.

"What I have said and we have collectively said is that PRJA is people's party. It is not just Irom Sharmila's party, it's not my party, it's the people's party. And anybody who is not affiliated to any other political party and who is above 18 years of age and is an Indian citizen is free to join this party," he added. 

How are they campaigning

The party, which was formed in October 2016 and seeks to fundraise Rs 50 lakh for its campaigning in the Manipur Assembly Elections through Mumbai-based, has raised a little more than Rs 2 lakh so far. 

They have been campaigning "intensively" and are visiting door-to-door to speak to every voter for however long it takes. The grassroot approach has not left any community behind. 

"Every candidate when campaigning takes a donation box along. During every meeting we keep a donation box for everybody to contribute as much as possible. Our workers, volunteers they do donation collection. We partnered with crowdfunding org called Ketto.

"While the Election Commission allows about Rs 20 lakh per constituency for campaigning Congress, BJP being well-funded are spending like 5 crore per constituency. Prja candidate will be spending up to Rs 5 lakh," he explained. 

What is the party's focus

The party is currently focusing on four points. First of this is to repeal AFSPA, against which Sharmila has protested for years. The others being bringing CM Ibobi to task, dealing with unemployment and restarting the economy. 

They will be looking to pass a resolution in Manipur saying that they don't need AFSPA and the state is no longer a disturbed state.

"The Central government will have to respect the verdict of the people," he added. 

The party also blamed Chief Minister Okrom Ibobi Singh for the failures of the economy and the divisions based on ethnicity. 

"When we are in the opposition or when we come to power we want to investigate what Ibobi has done. We want to pressure the next government to initiate a move to investigate Ibobi. Essentially, it's part of the transparency and accountability we want to bring. We want to fight corruption," he said.

They are looking to establish an anti-corruption machinery in the state, which still doesn't have a Lokayukta. They want to establish the anti-corruption bureau in Manipur consisting of civil police, lokpal members, and others.  

"Ibobi should bow down and retire," he said. 

"Whenever there is communal tension he shuts down all communication, internet. This happens in a very uncivilised manner. I have lived in US for 10 years and never heard of internet ban. Communal eruptions, faultlines on ethnic grounds, religious tension lines are because of Ibobi's mismanagement and prolific political pandering. It is essential for next government to start healing Manipur, and make an inclusive Manipur. Everyone should feel at home. Political pandering, playing with feelings of one community against another is dangerous," he added. 

He said that the party believes in inclusiveness and giving voice to all minorities. The main reason, according to Leichombam, for difference between hill and the valley people is regional development and disparity, which he blames on Ibobi's rule in the state for the last 15 years. 

Economic reforms

Manipur has a population of 28 lakh, of which 10 lakh is the youth. The state is facing acute youth unemployment, with 8 lakh youth unemployed in the state. 

"Youth is moving out since no jobs and you feel oppressed because of afspa. They don't want to be in an environment where there's no dignity to get a job based on merit. If we have self sufficient, self respected economic structure then Manipur youth won't go out," said Leichombam. 

"Not everyone will government jobs so we need to have private enterprises. We will be focusing on the service sector, local manufacturing. We want to do a massive reorganisation to economy to make it more self-sufficient.

"You can't have Toyota plants or build rockets here. Our focus will be to understand our comparative advantage in natural resources. We are gifted with bamboo, so bamboo plantations, pineapples, oranges, primary agriculture will be our focus. We can really create a whole self sufficient industry," he added.

They will also be looking at setting up manufacturing and bottling units of Manipuri sake, which is according to him as good if not better than Japanese sake. 

"It has the same taste, colour and texture. Manipur is a dry state but if we come to power is set up a manufacturing and export industry of Manipuri alcohol. One liter of Manipuri liquour, which is called Yu, is sold for Rs 150-200. The same substance from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia is 20 dollars," he said. 

He also added that they would be looking at producing marijuana for medicinal purposes and export. 

"Manipur is naturally disposed towards growing marijuana. Globally, it has been legalised in many countries, especially in US. It grows every where here. Marijuana is a cash crop like tobacco. We have a vision that essentially mass producing marijuana and exporting for medicinal purposes for export only. This would help rack up lot of revenue," he said.