Nongthongbam Biren Singh on Wednesday became the first BJP Chief Minister of Manipur after switching over to the party from the Congress about six months back. The BJP has come to power after 15 years of Congress rule in Manipur that was led by Okram Ibobi Singh. Biren, 56, is the 11th chief minister of Manipur.
At the Raj Bhavan, Biren was flanked by deputy chief minister-designate Y Joykumar Singh, a former DGP of Manipur once known to be close to Ibobi Singh, and Th Bishwajit Singh, Biren’s rival candidate for the post of Chief Minister. Th Bishwajit will be accommodated in the cabinet. Interestingly, the BJP itself seemed like a minority at the ceremony, with most of its ally MLAs being sworn in. Two BJP MLAs took oath — N Biren and Th Bishwajit — out of the nine legislators who were sworn in.
It was the BJP’s bid to accommodate allies without whom the party would have fallen short of the magic figure. At an event held outside the state BJP headquarters later, Biren spoke about the economic blockade and the need to lift it. “I appeal to the UNC (United Naga Council) to lift the economic blockade on humanitarian grounds, to alleviate the suffering of the people of Manipur. There is a need for us now to unify — all our tribal brothers and sisters and all our Meitei brothers and sisters need to come together and work towards the prosperity of the state,” he said.
Manipur state in-charge Prakash Javadekar emphasised the need to lift the economic blockade which has continued for 150 days and said this would be the first task of the BJP government. “The BJP in Manipur is like yongchak (a favourite Manipuri vegetable) eaten by all tribes and communities here. We are the state’s unifying force,” he said addressing the BJP workers. BJP president Amit Shah and senior leader Venkaiah Naidu could not attend the swearing-in because of a technical snag in their aircraft.