BJP bullish on forming government in Manipur

Congress, NPP and JD(U) may tie up in case of hung Assembly

March 09, 2022 10:41 pm | Updated 10:41 pm IST - IMPHAL

 Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah during a door to door campaign for Assembly polls, in Churachandpur (Manipur), Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah during a door to door campaign for Assembly polls, in Churachandpur (Manipur), Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Manipur is bullish on forming the government after the results of the 60 Assembly seats are declared on Thursday.

Principal opponent Congress and ally-turned-rival National People’s Party (NPP) are also confident of springing a surprise with the two political parties and Janata Dal(United) reportedly holding informal talks for a coalition if the verdict is split.

The exit polls have predicted 25-43 seats for the BJP to have a second shot at power in alliance with smaller parties or on its own. The party has been buoyed by the general perception and assessment by poll pundits that it would emerge as the single largest party with more seats than the 21 it won in 2017.

There are speculations that if the BJP falls short of the majority mark of 31 seats, it would form the government with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and some independents, who together are expected to win five-seven seats.

With four seats each, both NPF and NPP helped the BJP form the government in 2017. But the NPP, which had walked out of the government in 2020, is unlikely to be in the mix for BJP.

Ahead of the two-phase polls held on February 28 and March 5, the NPP and Congress had accused the BJP of using money and muscle power to influence voters. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alleged that banned groups under suspension of operations (SoO) were paid ₹16-crore in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

There are at least 25 outfits belonging to the Kuki-Zomi ethnic group under SoO and they are said to be influential in about 10 Assembly seats in the hills of Manipur.

But in Imphal Valley, the hub of power encompassing 39 seats, the BJP is likely to gain from the erosion in Congress and its reliance on an ageing former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Besides, 28 of the party’s MLAs had defected to the BJP.

According to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, the people voted for the BJP because they want the peace and development ushered in by his government to continue. “Violence, encounters, bandhs and blockades were common before 2017. The BJP established peace and ended the hill-valley divide,” he added.

The State’s Deputy Chief Minister and NPP leader, Yumnam Joykumar Singh said his party will prove the exit polls wrong. Reminding that his party was vital for government formation in 2017, he said the NPP would again call the shots by winning half the 38 seats it contested this time.

Also eyeing about 20 seats, the Congress is believed to have kept its flock together under the watch of five central observers in an Imphal hotel in order to prevent them from crossing over.

“Our objective is to keep the BJP out of power and our doors are open to others with a similar goal,” Congress spokesperson K. Debabrata said.

Within the BJP, a topic of discussion is the possibility of a change in leadership depending on how the party performs. Mr. Biren Singh might continue if the party manages to cross the majority mark under his leadership.

Of the total of 265 candidates across two phases, the BJP had fielded 60 seats, Congress 53, NPP and JD(U) 38 each and NPF 10.

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