Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Nongthombam Biren (Left) being sworn-in as Chief Minister for Second term and Awangbou Newmai of NPF as Minister on March 21 at Raj Bhavan in Imphal.

Though Many Parties Have Pledged Support to the BJP Government, Biren’s New Government is an Alliance of BJP and NPF Only

Even as Nongthombam Biren played well the game of power politics to win the approval of the national leadership of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Parliamentary Board on March 20 after a 10-day high political drama to get a second term as Chief Minister of Manipur, the political challenges before him continue to simmer. Whether the government is an alliance of BJP and Naga People’s Front (NPF) or a coalition of all the parties supporting BJP is still complicated.

The announcement by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the party office in the State capital Imphal at the party office on March 20 afternoon ended the 10-day suspense on who would be in charge after the BJP won the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election with a clear majority of 32 seats in the 60-member house. Several top leaders of BJP, including Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju as Central Co-observer, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra and state BJP president Adhikarimayum Sharda, were present during the announcement.

Nirmala said that the decision to reappoint Nongthombam Biren as Chief Minister was taken unanimously. Biren held the Chief Minister post in the last five-year of the first BJP-led government in Manipur by overthrowing the Congress rule led by former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh that lasted for 15 years in the state. The BJP had won 21 seats in 2017 but managed to cobble up with smaller parties leaving the Congress, the single-largest party with 28 seats, in the lurch.

It may be mentioned that several contenders for the Chief Minister post had reportedly put the BJP’s national leadership in a dilemma though the party was in a position to form a government on its own with 32 seats in the 60-member House.

Leading the BJP to a clear majority is believed to have worked in Biren’s favour. He and senior BJP legislature Thongam Biswajit were the frontrunners for the post. Their names were doing the rounds for about one week before former Assembly Speaker, Yumnam Khemchand’s name cropped up at the last moment to add to the suspense.

Biren and Biswajit were summoned to New Delhi twice in five days after the election result is declared for ending the impasse on the leadership issue. They held discussions with Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president Jagat Prasad Nadda and party stalwart B.L. Santosh.

At last, the duo returned to Imphal on March 20 along with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman; Union Law Minster Kiren Rijiju; Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change; and Labour & Employment, Bhupendra Yadav; Former Manipur Speaker Yumnam Khemchand and Manipur’s Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba.

After Nongthombam Biren was elected leader of Manipur BJP Legislative Party, Central Observers Nirmala Sitharaman and Kiren Rijiju met the Governor at Raj Bhavan, Imphal and handed over the proposal letter for the new government formation.

“As per the resolution adopted by the BJP Manipur Legislative Party, Shri N. Biren Singh has been elected unanimously as the Leader of Manipur BJP Legislative Party. Union Ministers Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman along with Shri Kiren Rijiju met me at Raj Bhavan & handed over the letter,” Manipur Governor La Ganesan tweeted later.

The governor accepted and congratulated the BJP on winning the 12th Manipur Assembly election 2022 by a majority of 32 members “which is quite sufficient” to form the government.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hoped the decision of electing Nongthombam Biren would go a long way in ensuring political stability and good governance in Manipur.

However, even after the swearing-in as Chief Minister of Manipur for his second term along with five ministers on March 21 at Raj Bhavan in Imphal in presence of BJP national president JP Nadda, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and BJP leaders from other states, portfolios of the ministers are not yet distributed till the time of writing this article.

The ministers sworn-in along with Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren are Thongam Biswajit, Yumnam Khemchand, Govindas Konthoujam and Nemcha Kipgen of BJP and Awangbou Newmai of Naga People’s Front (NPF).

As expected Awangbou Newmai of the NPF was sworn in as a Minister in Nongthombam Biren’s new government of the BJP since the NPF has been a partner of the BJP even in the recently concluded Assembly Election.

However, Biren is not free from the pressure of his “internal alliance” partner NPF. The NPF demands three ministerial berths in the new government. The party wants Losii Dikho from AC and Khashim Ruivah from Chingai AC to be inducted in the new ministry.

Even the 3-Day Session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly was started from March 25 and 31 demands for supplementary grants amounting to Rs 44,55,40,30,000 on second day of the ongoing First Session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly and two bills, namely the Manipur Appropriation (No. 1) Bill, 2022 and the Manipur Appropriation (No. 2) Bill, 2022 were introduced while the five ministers attended the session without portfolios since the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren is not abled to allocate the portfolios of his cabinet colleagues for reasons best known to them.

Failure of allocation of portfolios for the ministers even after five days of swearing-in is a great challenge for a Chief Minister even if it is his prerogative which departments have to be allocated to whom. The failure to allocate portfolios in time is considered by many political observers that there might be some understanding or compromises amongst the contenders for the post of Chief Minister before choosing him as the leader of the BJP Legislature party.

Meanwhile two political parties, namely the Janata Dal (United) – JD (U) with six members, newly formed Kuki Peoples’ Alliance with two members and one independent candidate Haokholet Haokip of Saitu AC extended their unconditional support to the BJP and their letters of support was also submitted to the governor. Earlier independent MLA from Keishamthong AC Nishikant Sapam who was denied BJP ticket extended his support to the BJP.

In 2017, the NPP and NPF were the two alliance parties in the BJP-led coalition government in Manipur. However, ahead of the 2022 polls, the ties between the two political parties soured.

Even though Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has ruled out further alliance with the National People’s Party (NPP), the NPP on March 23 has extended its support to the BJP-led government in Manipur. The NPP has emerged as the second-largest party after winning seven seats in the recently-concluded Manipur elections.

A letter of support duly signed by the seven NPP MLAs, including N Kayisii, the NPP legislature party leader, Khuraijam Loken, Irengbam Nalini, Thongam Shanti, Mayanglambam Rameshwar, Janghemlung Panmei and Sheikh Noorul Hassan was submitted to Manipur Governor.

“We, the members of the National People’s Party (NPP) to the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly would like to extend support to the Bharatiya Janata Party led government in the state as Alliance partner of NEDA and NDA,” stated the NPP in a letter of support.

However, the question crops up here – are the political parties extending unconditional support to the new government of the BJP which has already secured absolute majority with 32 seats in the 60-member house alliance or coalition partners of the BJP?

Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has categorically stated that aside from early stance of the BJP to work along with Naga People’s Front (NPF), it would not be forming coalition with any other political party. Chief Minister Biren even termed the NPF as “internal alliance”.

The new Chief Minister made the statement during a celebratory function of BJP’s victory held along with the vendors of the three Khwairamband Nupi Keithels on March 23.

Chief Minister Biren said, “All the parties have extended their support to the BJP government; it is also learnt that NPP is also extending their support. But we will have “internal alliance” with NPF only as we have already said there will be sharing in governance as alliance partner not with other parties. We welcome the support from the other parties too.”

However, as there was no pre-poll alliance, there will be no coalition or alliance with other parties, he further said.

Even though all the parties and independent members except Congress which have five members in the 60-member house and one independent from Karong AC J Kumo Sha support new BJP government with the hope that they may get ministerial berths and other political posts, Nongthombam Biren’s new BJP Government has alliance with NPF only so far.

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