Ending three days of speculations and hectic lobbying, Manipur governor Najma Heptulla on Tuesday invited the BJP-led coalition to form the next government in the state.
The swearing-in ceremony of the saffron party’s first government in Manipur will take place in the Raj Bhawan at 1 pm on Wednesday. It will be led by N Biren Singh, who was elected as the BJP’s legislature party leader on Monday.
“The BJP-led group is invited to form the government. They have the requisite number. I would like him (N Biren Singh) to prove his majority (on the floor of the House) as soon as possible, maybe soon after he is sworn in,” Heptulla told journalists at the Raj Bhawan.
Heptulla also denied that she had indulged in any wrong-doing by calling the BJP-led coalition to form the government instead of the Congress, the single-largest party. “I am a very straight-forward person. I go by the book, and I know the rules and regulations. My experience of 17 years (as deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha) has been very helpful in making me do the correct thing,” she said.
The governor said she had invited the BJP-led coalition because her responsibility was to see who has the majority, will work in the interests of the state, and provide stability.
Earlier in the day, the governor met legislators of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Party (NPP) — both parties supporting the BJP with four MLAs each — to get their views on the matter. The BJP, which came second with 21 seats (seven less than Congress), has the support of the NPP, the NPF, the lone Lok Janshakti Party MLA, an All India Trinamool Congress legislator and a Congress MLA — taking its tally to 32 legislators. The Congress, which had also staked claim to form the government as it is the single-largest party, failed to get the support of 31 MLAs — the number required to achieve a majority in the 60-member assembly.
“We had requested that the swearing-in ceremony should be held at the historic Kangla Fort. But, due to some issues, it will be held at the Raj Bhawan,” said a senior BJP leader.
Another party leader disclosed that Biren, a former national-level footballer-turned- politician, chose Wednesday for the swearing-in ceremony as he considers it a lucky day. A minister in the erstwhile Congress government of Okram Ibobi Singh, the 56-year old had quit the party to join the BJP in October last year. He played a key role in the party, increasing its tally from zero in 2012 to 21 this time.
Once the BJP assumes charge, it will be the saffron party’s third government in the north-east after Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In this election, the party’s vote share also went up from 2% in 2012 to over 36%.
After assuming office, Biren will have the tough task of keeping everyone in the coalition happy while allotting portfolios and also delivering on the BJP’s promise of ending the ongoing blockade of highways by the United Naga Council. “The top priority for our government would be to get the blockade lifted, which is harassing the masses, and improve the law-and-order situation in the state,” Biren had told HT before his selection for the top post.
The other focus areas for the new government would be good governance, development, jobs, provision of enough drinking water, improving roads, and better infrastructure in the education and health sectors, he said. “Removing or retaining the Armed Forces Special Powers Act will depend on ground reality. If the law-and-order situation improves, we can remove it. If not, it will continue,” Biren added.