Manipur 2017

Biren Singh: from footballer to Chief Minister

N. Biren Singh

N. Biren Singh

Nongthombam Biren Singh, who on Wednesday was sworn in as the first Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) Chief Minister of Manipur, is a politician who has donned many hats.

A graduate from Manipur University in Arts, Mr. Singh hails from Luwangsangbam Mamang Leikai, a rural area in Imphal East district and has been representing Heingang Assembly constituency in the district since 2002.

The 56-year-old politician, who has been a national-level footballer, served in the central paramilitary forces and also worked as an editor of a local newspaper.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Singh said his foray into active politics began in June 2001, when he along with other leaders started the Democratic Revolutionary People’s Party. Subsequently he joined the Congress.

“After joining the Congress in 2003, I was Minister of State for Vigilance. Later, I was handed the portfolios of Irrigation and Flood Control along with Youth Affairs and Sports,” he said.

Served in BSF

Speaking about life before politics, he talked about his love for sports and journalism. “I got into the BSF through sports quota and sports, particularly football, remains my first love. I served the BSF from 1979 to 1993”, he said. From 1993 to 2002, he said that he was associated with the regional newspaper called Naharlogi Thoudang (Responsibilities of Youth).

During his stint as the editor of the paper, he also had a brush with the law when he was arrested for publishing a statement in April 2000 which the police claimed was “anti-national and seditious”.

Once an aide of Ibobi

He was once considered a close aide of Okram Ibobi Singh. He was the spokesperson for the Manipur government between 2007 to 2012 and later spokesperson for the Congress.

However things started changing after 2012, when in the last term of the Congress government, he could not make it into Mr. Ibobi Singh’s Cabinet. Sources in the Congress say that in the last quarter of 2016, he and certain others lobbied for a Cabinet reshuffle. In the reshuffle, only three Cabinet ministers could be dropped. When offered a Cabinet berth he refused to accept it.

He left the Congress to join the BJP in October 2016, hardly five months before the 2017 Assembly polls. Some photographs at the Manipur Congress headquarters still have Mr. Singh alongside State Congress president T.N. Haokip and other office-bearers.

Dark horse in the BJP

Though relatively new in the party, his elevation as the leader of the BJP legislature party on Monday has been because of a host of factors including the defeat of BJP heavyweights like Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, a veteran politician and BJP State president. Just before the polls K. Joykishan, a prominent BJP leader switched sides and joined the Congress.

Politicians and people cutting across party lines in Manipur, describe Mr. Biren Singh as a very accessible and friendly person. “He is also popular in the media and can make friends easily among people from the hills and valley. Biren is also a friend to many of us in the Congress,” a senior Congress leader said.

Speaking to journalists, Mr. Singh underlined the tough task ahead. “The road map for me will be delivering proper governance to the people. I assure the people that our team will bring good governance to the people of Manipur,” he said.

His first task will be clearing the blockade on the National Highways which has crippled the State for over four months, following creation of new districts. He will also have to manage the two key allies the Naga People’s Front ( NPF) and the National People’s Party ( NPP).

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 1:42:50 pm |