After day-long parleys and closed-door negotiations, the BJP cobbled up the numbers it required and staked claim to form the next government in Manipur on Sunday night.
Newly elected BJP MLAs, accompanied by leaders of the National People’s Party (NPP), met governor Najma Heptullah at the Raj Bhawan and handed over a list of legislators.
Once it takes over, the BJP will lead the third government in the northeast region – following Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The party is also part of the Naga People’s Front (NPF)-led coalition in Nagaland.
“The decision on who will be the party’s legislature party leader, and details of the swearing-in ceremony, will be taken on Monday,” Manipur BJP president K Bhabananda told journalists.
The saffron party had not announced a chief ministerial candidate ahead of the polls. However, senior leader N Biren Singh could be the frontrunner for the post because the two other contenders failed to win in the elections.
Despite coming second with just 21 seats, the BJP managed to get the support of four MLAs each from the NPF and NPP – besides lone Lok Janshakti Party legislator Karam Shyam.
Sources say T Shyam Kumar, the Congress MLA from Andro, and T Robindro Singh, the lone All India Trinamool Congress legislator, have also extended support to the coalition — taking the tally past the 31-seat mark. Both the legislators were present in the Raj Bhawan with the BJP and other allies.
The Congress, which secured 28 seats (14 less than 2012), came very close to retaining power after being at the helm for the past 15 years. However, the party failed to garner the additional support it required from other parties.
The BJP did not win a single seat in the state in 2012, securing just 2% of the total votes. This time, the party increased its figure to 21 and vote share to over 36% – even making inroads into traditional Congress bastions.
“We have decided to extend support to the BJP-led government. The NPP and LJP will be part of the government while the NPF extends outside support,” Conrad Sangma, NPP leader and Lok Sabha MP, told HT.
High drama had played out at the Imphal airport on Sunday afternoon, when the lone Independent MLA – Ashab Uddin from Jiribam – was allegedly detained by CISF personnel while returning from the state capital. “On behest of the BJP, independent candidate Ashab Uddin has been detained forcibly by CISF and flown to unknown destination,” tweeted Congress general secretary CP Joshi soon after the incident.
Confusion prevailed in the hours that followed, and Uddin could not be contacted despite several attempts. Senior BJP leaders didn’t react to the allegation either.
Meanwhile, Congress’ efforts to gather support from “like-minded parties” seemed to have come a cropper. Party members elected incumbent chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh as the Congress legislature party leader, and were expected to meet governor Najma Heptullah on Monday to stake claim to form the government in the state.
However, there could be more trouble in store for the Congress. Till reports last came in, there were unverified speculations that over a dozen party MLAs were willing to switch allegiance to the BJP.