Even though Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren could managed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government towards completing its full term of five years, the infighting among the power centres within the ruling BJP still cannot be resolved and comes out more open with the expulsion of BJP’s die-hard member Chongtham Bijoy, former Chief Spokesperson of Manipur State BJP.
Apart from the challenges to his leadership from within the party, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has had a hard time to manage the BJP-led fragile coalition government since day one. Coalition partner National People’s Party (NPP) with only four members in the house of 60 took away the post of Deputy Chief Minister and three ministers for the remaining three MLAs of the NPP along with plump portfolios. Congress defector Thounaojam Shyamkumar holds another Minister for about three years till he was disqualified under anti-defection law.
BJP’s ally Naga People’s Front (NPF) focusing more on its political agenda and furthering the Naga cause has endured with only one minister for about three years but fortunately got one more minister filling the vacuum left by the disqualification Congress defector Thounaojam Shyamkumar.
Lone LJP MLA Karam Shyam bagged one berth of 12 ministers allowed under the law while only four ministerial berths besides Chief Minister went to the ruling BJP which won 21 seats. To keep the fragile coalition in order majority of the ministerial berths were given to the coalition partners.
Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren tried to please all the ruling members by appointing 12 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries since day one of his government on March 15, 2017. However, Manipur High Court on September 17, 2020 had struck down the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012 and the Manipur Parliamentary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Repealing Act, 2018 following a plea filed by Congress MLA Surjakumar Okram and D. D. Thaisii.
Since the opposition Congress continued to appeal the then Governor of Manipur Najma Heptulla to disqualify the 12 MLAs on office of profit since the laws under which they were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries were declared null and void and unconstitutional by the High Court of Manipur.
Moreover, D. D. Thaisii filed a petition to the Supreme Court seeking direction over the inaction of the Governor and Election Commission of India.
The disqualification case kept the BJP government of Nongthombam Biren headache.
Moreover, rebels against the leadership of Nongthombam Biren from the BJP MLAs and party leaders could not be resolved for once and all.
In 2020 the BJP government under Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren almost collapsed following a high political drama with the resignation of three BJP MLAs.
However, Nongthombam Biren managed to convince the national leadership of the BJP that he is the only member who can lead the BJP in Manipur as Chief Minister.
And National president JP Nadda hinted at Nongthombam Biren returning as Chief Minister during his speech at Kakching, Union Home Minister Amit Shah was very clear on the question of the next leadership as he appealed to the people of Manipur to vote for BJP in the 2022 elections so that a BJP government led by Nongthombam Biren returns once again to continue the ‘good work’ of the double engine combine at the virtual conference on January 6.
Despite these, Manipur State BJP is still a divided house. It is evident from BJP Manipur Election-in-Charge and Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav’s inability to assure that Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren will be the Manipur Chief Ministerial Face of BJP in the upcoming Assembly election.
Although Bhupendra contended that the BJP-led government in the state has witnessed a great improvement in its five-year tenure under the leadership of Nongthombam Biren and he is also leading the BJP Manipur in the ensuing election, he however said the matter will be decided by the party’s Parliamentary Board and national leadership when asked whether the present incumbent Nongthombam Biren would be returning as Chief Minister again.
Manipur State BJP President Adhikarimayum Sharda also frequently said that the there is no Chief Ministerial face of the party for the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election to be held on February 28 and March 5, 2022. Many BJP leaders continue to say that the party will fight the ensuing election without chief ministerial face following Assam style or model in which no Chief Ministerial Face was projected and ultimately Himanta Biswa Sarma became the Chief Minister and the incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was accommodated in the Union Ministry.
However, as most of the choices of party tickets had gone in favour of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, his detractors both in the state and national are burning midnight oil to look for options. Many BJP senior leaders who were denied party ticket have left the party while other disappointed and disgruntled leaders continue to remain silent till their opportunity fight back comes as dedicated party members.
Surprisingly, one of the most outspoken defenders of the BJP and dedicated die-hard member, Chongtham Bijoy who is the state BJP Chief Spokesperson has been expelled from the BJP primary membership for a period of six years. Chongtham Bijoy has been dedicating all his life to the BJP and its ideology for over 27 years since 1994.
An order dated February 8, 2022 and issued by the state president Adhikarimayum Sharda the Chief Spokesperson of the BJP Chongtham Bijoy for violation of the party’s Rules and regulations under Article XXV of the party’s constitution.
Interestingly, the information about the expulsion of Chongtham Bijoy was made available only February 11 at around noon. Few minutes earlier Chongtham Bijoy was preparing for a panel discussion of a local TV programme to speak in defence of the BJP. He already had given assent to join the programme but few minutes later he informed the TV channel that he has been expelled by the BJP Manipur State President. That showed that the news about the expulsion of BJP which was already ordered three days back is let known to himself as well as to the public.
Following his expulsion, the former Chief Spokesperson of the BJP Chongtham Bijoy told the media in the afternoon on February 11 that the way he has been expelled has been taken by some self-centric leaders without following proper procedures.
“I had been with the BJP for over 27 years and had been working for the upliftment of the party at every capacity”, Bijoy said. He said that the ideology and the commitment of the BJP which is based on anti-corruption have been sidelined by the so called BJP leaders who had entered the party recently.
“With the coming of these some new faces the value base and cadre base idea as expressed by the leader of the BJP Venkaya Naidu is made a mockery”, Bijoy added.
He added that the State BJP today had many long sufferer cadres, ticket aspirants and they have been used and thrown by the present BJP leaders.
“I am not scared, I will try to consolidate all the original BJP cadres and will clean the BJP, that is why I will not join any political party”, Bijoy asserted.
On the other hand, Bijoy said that during a press conference held February 10, some media has misinterpreted his statement. He said, he only said against the NPP and other political parties in favour of the BJP candidates contesting in all the 59 seats of the 60 Assembly constituencies.
“I was attacking or talking to a particular BJP candidate from Uripok Assembly constituency but for all the assembly constituencies, and I was never against the BJP”, Bijoy said. Regarding his announcement to vote for NOTA instead of the BJP candidate at Uripok Assembly Constituency, Bijoy said that he stands with what he said, but he never said that he would campaign against the BJP.
“That was my protest and I have my own rights to decide as I have been denied ticket on the ground that I am not rich and I have a determined anti-corruption stance”, Bijoy reiterated.
“Now, as the party has expelled me I will start campaigning and supporting Khumbongmayum Suresh, the JDU candidate contesting from the Uripok Assembly constituency”, Bijoy said but added that he and his team will not join any party as he has to fight and clean the BJP State unit. Suresh was also a BJP ticket aspirant and denied in spite of all his contributions.
Bijoy, who has been dedicating for the BJP for over 27 years also made an announcement that he will expose the wrong and the corrupt practice being underway inside the state BJP over the allocation of party tickets for the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 with proper evidence in the coming days.
It is well known to not only in the political circle of Manipur but also in general public that there is no one in the Manipur State BJP like Bijoy who stood firmed and defended BJP always in any circumstances.
Now expulsion of BJP die-hard Chongtham Bijoy is like axing Manipur BJP on its own leg instead of trying to keep the already divided house in order.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics