Of the 12-member BJP-led government sworn in on March 15, 2017, only the Chief Minister N Biren Singh himself and two others L Jayantakumar and V Hangkhanlian were former ministers, while the rest were first timers. Even Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar Singh was a first-time MLA. In the most recent and much-expected reshuffle, out of the five new faces inducted by Chief Minister Biren Singh, only one was a former minister. He is S Rajen Singh from Lamsang assembly constituency. So, there is no hard and fast rule that, experience matters in being considered for the post of a minister here. Th Bishwajit, although a first time minister was put in charge of many important portfolios.
Who has more bargaining power is what counts, it seems. Now, the question on everybody’s lips is out of the four ministers from BJP why was Bishwajit retained and the other three axed. What made him so special as compared to his three colleagues? In politics, one needs godfathers and patronage to survive, not special attributes. Bishwajit seems to keep them in close quarters. The general demand from the BJP MLAs was to replace all four with new faces. So, maybe Bishwajit was a brilliant escape artist.
Now, the supporters of the three former BJP ministers are up in arms and openly revolting. The first reaction came from Kangpokpi, where the supporters of Nemcha Kipgen poured into the streets, blocked the National Highway and burnt CM Biren’s effigy. The Kangpokpi SP was transferred the next day. Next, voices of protest came from Heirok, former Education Minister Th Radheshyam’s constituency. The latest outburst in BJP camp came from V Hangkhanlian’s constituency Churachandpur. The Churachandpur BJP Mandal has decided to halt all party activities in the constituency, in protest. However, out of the five assembly constituencies in Churachandpur district Mandals of four constituencies came out in support of the Chief Minister. V Hangkhanlian was replaced by another from the district Vungzagin Valte, the Thanlon MLA. It was indeed surprising that such outbursts came out from the ranks of a self-professed disciplined party. On the other hand, there are murmurs of discontent among the other party MLAs who were left from the reshuffle. One such complaint was that, most of the ministers are either from Imphal East and Imphal West, while some districts are neglected in representation. True but alas, the theory of representation is workable only when there are enough numbers in the majority party. The present coalition government simply don’t have the luxury to exercise a model representation as it is always busy in keeping the flock together and intact.
Next came the rant from the lone Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MLA Karam Shyam who was indeed dropped unceremoniously. It seemed, he had tried to spread his wings beyond his Langthabal constituency and had to be stopped. His lament that he had turned down an offer of Deputy CM post from the Congress to support the BJP will find few takers, as BJP was the party in power in New Delhi while also a partner, there. However, the NPP’s move post-reshuffle is quite interesting. During government formation, it was able to extract its pound of flesh with ministership for all its four MLAs including the post of Deputy CM and the Finance portfolio. It played spoilsport in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections, while always holding the government at ransom. But, one day or the other, the bluff has to be called. Everyone expected them to immediately pull out of the coalition as they have been threatening to. When two of them were dropped, the party President Conrad Sangma advised them to wait and watch. Jayantakumar and Kayisii, the two dropped MLAs, are saying ‘Will stay or walk out together’ while Deputy CM Yumnam Joykumar and Sports Minister Letpao Haokip are keeping mum. Loud were his words, when Conrad came and launched the campaign for the upcoming by-election at Wangoi. Yet, none came out this time and Y Joykumar is sitting cosy in his chair. Who is going to finance and manage the by-election? One has to think of that.