The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) expansion in the northeast got another boost on Wednesday with the swearing-in of the state’s first saffron party-led coalition under the leadership of N Biren Singh.
Governor Najma Heptulla administered the oath of office and secrecy to Biren, a former Congress minister who switched over to the BJP last year, and 8 other cabinet ministers, at the Raj Bhawan.
Deputy chief minister Y Joykumar Singh and cabinet ministers Th Biswajit Singh, L Jayantakumar Singh, Karam Shyam, Letpao Haokip, N Kayisii, Th Shyamkumar and Losii Dikho were among them.
Besides Biren, Biswajit is the only BJP MLA in the cabinet. A total of four berths were allotted to National People’s Party, all four of the party’s MLAs were made ministers.
The lone Lok Janashakti Party MLA Karam Shyam, Naga People’s Front’s Dikho and Congress legislator Th Shyam Kumar, who joined the coalition after his election, completed the list.
This is the third BJP-led government in the region after Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The party is also part of the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition in Nagaland.
The biggest cheers during the swearing in ceremony were reserved for Congress’s Shyamkumar, whose support was crucial in the coalition getting past the figure of 31 MLAs needed for a majority in the 60-member assembly.
“People are fed up with the Congress. I am ready to face any consequence for my action,” he told Hindustan Times after swearing in.
A cabinet expansion is expected within the next 10-12 days to accommodate more BJP legislators in the ministry, which can have a total of 12 ministers.
“I appeal to United Naga Council to please lift the blockade on humanitarian grounds as innocent people are suffering. We can sit down and sort out (the issue),” Biren later said at a party function.
Manipur has been reeling under an indefinite blockade of the state’s two national highways by UNC since November last year, in protest against the creation of new districts by the former Congress government.
A corruption free government and equal development of the valley and hills for a united Manipur will be the other priorities of the government, the 56-year-old said.
Biren’s predecessor Congress’s Okram Ibobi Singh, who had also staked claim to form the government on the ground that the party was the single largest in the assembly, was also present at the ceremony.
“Our game is over. We will sit in the opposition and play a constructive role. We respect the Supreme Court’s verdict delivered on Tuesday and also the verdict given by the people,” he said.
BJP president Amit Shah, who was to take part in the ceremony, could not make it as his flight developed a snag and had to return to New Delhi.
Chief ministers of Sikkim, Pawan Chamling, and Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, also failed to turn up.
Union ministers Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal and Assam chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal, former Manipur CM RB Koijam and the state’s titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba were the other dignitaries present.
On Tuesday evening, Heptulla invited the BJP-led coalition to form the government and also prove the majority on the floor of the House “as soon as possible”.
Although Congress, the single-largest party with 28 seats, also staked claim to form the government, Heptulla said she took the decision to invite the BJP-led coalition as it had “the requisite number”.
A party or coalition needs the support of at least 31 MLAs for a majority in the 60-member assembly. The BJP, which has 21 MLAs of its own, presented the governor with a list of 32 legislators.