Manipur’s first BJP government is likely to be sworn in on Wednesday under the leadership of legislature party leader N Biren Singh, who has made the lifting of a crippling economic blockade his first priority as chief minister.
Only two ministers, Biren and party colleague Th. Biswajit, who proposed the former’s name for the top post, are likely to take oath of office. Other ministers will be sworn-in later.
“People want to see governance…the top priority for our government would be to get the blockade lifted, which is harassing the masses and also improve the law and order situation in the state. We will try to reach out to the remote and hill areas and provide good governance and development,” Biren told HT.
“Our campaign and our revealing of the truth of the past 15 years of Congress misrule reached out to the masses and that’s why people turned out in such huge numbers and voted for change,” he added but refused to commit to repealing the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
The party is still waiting for a call from Raj Bhawan and expecting to get the letter of invitation to form the government on Tuesday.
Sources say the governor is consulting legal experts in a state where the Congress emerged as the single-largest party but is said to have failed to cobble together a coalition to claim majority.
Governor Najma Heptulla is waiting for a formal notification from the election commission on the list of candidates elected. Once the governor receives it, she is expected to carry forward the government formation process.
A senior party leader on condition of anonymity disclosed that Biren, a former national level footballer turned journalist, who later joined politics, chose Wednesday for swearing in as he considers the day lucky.
Soon after Biren’s election on Monday, newly elected MLAs of the saffron party had met the Governor on Monday evening and staked their claim to form the government by handing over a list of 33 MLAs.
Congress CM Okram Ibobi Singh had also met the Governor later in the evening. He submitted his resignation and reiterated the party’s claim as the single largest party with 28 MLAs to form the government.
Despite the claim, Congress hasn’t been able to cobble up the required support of 31 MLAs needed for majority in the 60-member assembly.
BJP, which came second with 21 seats, has the support of four MLAs each from Naga People’s Front and National People’s Party and the lone Lok Janshakti Party legislator Karam Shyam.
The saffron party also claims to have support of Congress MLA T Shyam Kumar, lone All India Trinamool Congress legislator T. Robindro Singh and the only Independent MLA Ahsab Uddin.
Once he takes charge, the new chief minister will have the tough task of keeping everyone in the coalition happy while allotting portfolios and also deliver on the BJP’s promise of ending the ongoing blockade of highways by United Naga Council within 24 hours of coming to power.
“There will be effort to provide at least one job for each family. Even after 15 years of rule, Congress failed to implement its promise of providing drinking water to people across the state. We will do that in a short time,” he told HT.
The chief minister-designate said improving road connectivity would be on his radar, as would be the quality of healthcare and education. “Removing or retaining Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will depend on the ground reality. If the law and order situation improves, we can remove it. If not, it will continue.”
He blamed the previous Congress government of not doing enough to lift the four-month-long blockade of highways by the United Naga Council that paralysed normal life, caused a spike in food and medical supplies, and triggered widespread violence. “There was no governance in Congress rule. Even the chief minister couldn’t go to the hills,” Biren said.