Updated 9 Feb 2022, 7:09 pm
In 2017, there was not a chief ministerial face for the BJP as it was too busy on the agenda of unseating the 15 year old Congress regime led by the powerful O Ibobi Singh. The ‘winnability’ factor was the sole objective. Among those who won from BJP ticket except for a few, many of the BJP winners were first-timers.
Somehow, N Biren Singh got lucky with the defeat of a few old warhorses like former Union Minister Th Chaoba Singh and Y Erabot Singh, and became the first BJP CM of the state. In spite of the all-out effort BJP managed to win only 21 seats in the 60-member Manipur assembly and it was forced to hastily cobble together a fragile coalition of parties and MLAs including a Congress deserter, while the single largest party Congress with 28 MLAs were denied a chance. As such, the attention of the party were most of the time consumed in managing the fragile coalition and also in tackling the infighting among the power centres within the party.
Yet, Biren Singh managed to weather the internal storms and had brought the coalition so far. This time, BJP is aiming to form a government on its own as it wants to avoid the push and pulls of coalition. While NPP got away with the post of Deputy CM and ministership for its three other MLAs along with plump portfolios, NPF had only one minister for about three years in the term till another minister was added after the disqualification of Congress defector Th Shyamkumar. However, NPF was focusing more on its political agenda and furthering the Naga cause.
With regard to the CM face for 2022 elections, BJP election in charge and Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav was evasive as he said that the matter will be decided by the party’s Parliamentary Board when asked whether the present incumbent N Biren Singh would be returning as CM again. Yet he contended that N Biren is leading the BJP campaign in 2022 elections and that the state has witnessed a great improvement in its five-year tenure under the leadership of Biren.
While National president JP Nadda hinted at Biren Singh returning as CM 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 N Biren Singh returns once again to continue the ‘good work’ of the double engine combine at the virtual conference on January 6.
All the while, it was upto to the parliamentary board of the party to decide on the CM face and make a categorical official statement. And there is nothing new about it. If the BJP leadership is really keen on getting a majority of its own to ensure stability and pursuit of its goals, it must also take care of ensuring a strong leadership and absence of internal dissension. People are talking of the Assam style in which no CM face was projected and ultimately led to Himanta Biswa Sarma becoming the CM and Sarbananda Sonowal shifted to Centre. Whether such a model could be applied to Manipur is open to question, as circumstances and political dynamics are different now.
However in the context of the evolving political scenario and body language of both Central and state leaders of the party, there seems to be an ambiguity in the BJP strategy so far. Although, they continue to shout from the rooftops that BJP would be able to win more than 40 seats in the house of 60 and form an exclusive government on its own they do not seem to actually believe it.
There are some within the party who are expecting a hung assembly where it had to depend on allies for forming a government. As most of the choices of party tickets had gone in favour of CM N Biren Singh, his detractors both in the state and Centre are burning midnight oil to look for options. For one, reports of BJP succumbing to NPF pressure and putting up weak candidates in constituencies where NPF candidates are contesting is a strategy favoured by his detractors. Therein comes the role of Assam CM and NEDA convenor Humanta Biswa Sarma. All these factors points to a divided house.
First published:9 Feb 2022, 7:09 pm
n biren singhManipur assembly electionsManipur pollsbjpticketCM Face