The BJP will form the government in Manipur for a second consecutive term after gaining majority in its 60-member assembly on Thursday. Exit poll predictions, that spurred the party to spruce up its office in state capital Imphal in preparation of victory, were on target as the party won 28 seats and was leading in four more to cross the majority mark of 31.
The Congress, the dominant party in Manipur for many years, is far behind with just five wins, while the Janata Dal (United) bagged six seats – as many as the National People’s Party (NPP), which was leading on another constituency.
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The Naga People’s Front (NPF) won five, the Kuki People’s Alliance two and three independent candidates were elected.
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In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress was the largest party with 28 seats, just three short of a majority, but it failed to get support to bridge that gap. The BJP had won 21 seats but it partnered with the NPF and the NPP, both of which had won 4 seats each, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) with one seat each and one independent legislator, to form the government.
Import from the Congress and former union minister N Biren Singh was named Chief Minister at the head of the first BJP government in Manipur.
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Biren Singh, 61, has represented the Heingang constituency for the last 20 years, winning on a Democratic Revolutionary People’s Party ticket in 2002 before he switched to the Congress and retained the seat for the assembly elections in 2007 and 2012. He joined the BJP in 2016 and defeated Congress candidate Pangeijam Saratchandra Singhis in the 2017 elections.
He won the seat for a fifth consecutive term, defeating Singhis by a margin of 18,271 votes in this year’s election.
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But Biren Singh may face other battles on his way to a second term in the top office. The BJP has not named him its candidate for chief minister and party leaders like Thongam Biswajit Singh and Govindas Konthoujam are seen to be aspirants too.
From neighbouring Assam there is the precedent of Sarbananda Sonowal leading the BJP into elections as the outgoing Chief Minister, but Himanta Biswa Sarma was picked to be CM.
Singh will also struggle in case of a hung house with BJP rebels and sharp critics contesting from parties like the NPP, which could be in position to play kingmaker again.
Meanwhile, counting of votes is underway in the four other states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa – that went to polls. The BJP has established a clear lead in UP and is set for a historic consecutive term, and is also ahead in Goa and Uttarakhand.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 92 of the 117 seats in Punjab for a resounding win over the Congress.