As ambitious miners rushed heading to the north in pursuit of gold many modern politicians of Manipur rushed to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the hope to get power after all they get the party tickets in the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election scheduled to be held on February 27 and March 3, 2022.
Since the ambitious modern politicians of Manipur from other parties are flocking to the BJP, the ruling party appears strengthened and bulged since the installation of BJP-led Manipur Government on March 15, 2017 when the BJP got only 21 seats in the 60-Member Manipur Legislative Assembly with the pleasure of the then Governor of Manipur Dr. Najma Heptulla.
However, a pertinent question crops up now – will the induction of all the modern politicians intending to be candidates of BJP in coming Manipur Legislative Assembly election guarantee the BJP absolute majority in the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly?
Till most recently, Manipur media headlines are about MLAs and political party leaders particularly of Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) are leaving the party and joining the ruling BJP.
Now those political party members who were suspended or denied party tickets by the Manipur Congress are joining the political parties which are the constituent parties of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Last years, former Manipur Congress President and six-time MLA from Bishnupur AC Govindas Konthoujam thinking the Congress is a sinking ship joined the BJP at a function held at its central party office in New Delhi on August 1, 2021 in the presence of Union Minister of State Dr. RK Ranjan, MP Rajya Sabha, Leishemba Sanajaoba, state BJP president Adhikarimayum Sharda, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, BJP Manipur in-charge Sambit Patra and others attended the function.
In surging hope for the ruling BJP to get more members in the 12th Manipur legislative Assembly but in yet another blow to the Congress in Manipur, senior party MLA Dr Chaltonlien Amo has joined the BJP on January 9.
It may be mentioned that Dr Chaltonlien Amo is the sitting MLA of Tipaimukh AC and was serving as the Vice President of Manipur Congress.
Interestingly, the incident comes a day after the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the poll dates for Assembly election in five states including Manipur.
A reception ceremony was held welcoming Amo at the BJP office in Imphal in the presence of Union Minister of Labour and Employment Bhupendra Yadav, who is also the party in-charge of Manipur, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren and BJP Manipur president Adhikarimayum Sharda among others.
While the senior MLA Chaltonlien Amo declined to give any comments, the MPCC has issued an order stating that Dr Chaltonlien Amo ceased to be a primary member of the party with immediate effect as part of disciplinary action.
Chaltonlien Amo’s defection to the BJP comes barely five days after senior Congress MLA D Korungthang who was also a Vice President of MPCC left the party to join the Naga People’s Front (NPF).
Significantly, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) to which D Korungthang from Tengnoupal AC has joined is an ally of the ruling BJP and partner of the BJP-led Manipur Government.
In another development, technically sole Trinamool Congress MLA in the state but practically BJP, Tongbram Robindro elected from Thanga AC also has joined the BJP on January 20.
Former Congress MLA from Kakching Assembly Constituency Yengkhom Surchandra has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on January 20.
The Manipur High Court on November 5, 2020 has declared the election of Y Surchandra from Kakching Assembly Constituency in 2017 assembly elections as null and void over non-disclosure of information the election affidavit and has also named M Rameshwar, who secured the second place in the then elections, as the elected Member of Kakching Assembly Constituency.
In the recent past, Manipur Youth Affairs and Sports Minister in the BJP-led coalition government, Letpao Haokip quit his party National People’s Party (NPP) to join the saffron brigade.
The floodgate to the ruling BJP has been opened soon after the last 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election in 2017 to form a BJP government for the first time in Manipur by hook or by crook under the patronage of the then Governor of Manipur Dr. Najma Heptulla when while the Congress had emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats in the house of 60. The BJP was second with 21 seats while four seats each were won by the NPP and the NPF.
Though the Congress as the single largest party, had a good claim to form the government, it was also only three seats short of the majority mark and needed the support of only one ally either the NPP or NPF.
It was unfortunate for Manipur Congress that the NPP was already in alliance with the BJP in Meghalaya, where NPP Chief Conrad Sangma’s main opposition was the Congress led by his predecessor as Meghalaya Chief Minister, Mukul Sangma. Naturally, the NPP bargained for ministerial berths of all the NPP MLAs and supported the BJP led Government of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren.
The difficulty for the Congress to get support of NPF was that the NPF won four seats on anti-Ibobi wave for Okram Ibobi refused to allow Thuingaleng Muivah of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) –NSCN (IM) to visit Manipur. So for the NPF, it was out of the question for them to support a government led by Okram Ibobi.
As the Congress failed to find its allies in the post-poll scenario in 2017 and there was no sign of Congress forming the government, the Congress MLA from Andro AC, Thounaojam Shyamkumar defected from the party and supported the BJP-led government.
Since then, once faded for at least 15 years, “horse trading’ resurfaced in the political culture of Manipur.
The sole independent MLA, Ashab Uddin from Jiribam constituency, who was allegedly whisked away from inside Imphal airport.
By inducting many strong political leaders particularly from Congress, the BJP has ended up now with a situation where there are multiple strong ticket aspirants for practically every seat. When the BJP has declared its list of candidate for the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election, there will be many disappointed and disgruntled leaders within the party. It is a hard reality which the BJP has to face.
It is open secret that the BJP has many groups under the same roof. The leadership of Nongthombam Biren has not been an uncontested within the party ever since the formation of the BJP-led government in Manipur. Three BJP MLAs resigned.
Now, the NPP under the leadership of BJP-led government’s Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar is emerging as an important and more serious contender announcing at least 20 candidates in the first list. It may be mentioned that the NPP, had withdrawn support to BJP-led government of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren along with the Independent MLA and three BJP rebels, thus reducing his government to a minority.
However, the government survived the ensuing confidence motion by resorting to a confidence trick that saw a voice vote from which eight Congress MLAs remained absent while the rebellious NPP MLAs returned to the fold with the intervention of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and NDA leaders.
The NPF is also fielding in more Assembly Constituencies and wielding power with the BJP in Naga dominated areas.
Kuki armed groups who are under the Suspension of Operation (SoO) will also be a key factor in the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election. It may be mentioned that the Kuki militant organisations had openly backed the BJP candidate from the Outer Manipur constituency, a man from their tribe in the 2019 Lok Sabha election while the Naga militant outfits had backed the Naga NPF candidate who eventually won.
This time another political party consolidating Kuki tribes, Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA) has emerged and will field in as many as Kuki dominated Assembly Constituencies. This doesn’t mean that the entry of KPA won’t affect the BJP.
It will also be hard for the BJP to secure majority votes from Pangals, the Manipuri Muslims.
Moreover, the Christians mostly belong to the tribes in the reserved seats of Manipur Legislative Assembly are not happy with the election schedule on Sunday, February 27, 2022.
With these some of the hard realities, by inducting strong leaders from the opposition Congress and many modern politicians who are intending to be candidates may not guaranty the ruling BJP’s ambitious majority as they claim.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics