The election season in the country is in its full flow. While the showstopper certainly is the state of Uttar Pradesh, another state – Manipur is gearing up for an exciting finale. The 60 assembly seats in Manipur will go to poll in two phases on February 27 and March 3. The onus will be on former footballer turned BJP Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh to secure a consecutive victory for the saffron party.
Biren Singh is BJP’s first Chief Minister in the North-eastern state. His elevation to the top state position came as a shock to many, including the leader himself. When asked in an interview if he expected the job, Singh in his modest demeanour remarked, “I did not expect that. In the late evening of March 8, 2017, I got a call from Amit Shah. He told me that the parliamentary board had chosen me as chief minister,”
BJP understood Biren’s prowess and elevated him
While Singh could not realize his potential, the BJP top brass certainly understood his prowess. In the 5 years since Singh has been at the helm of affairs, Manipur has finally arrived on the national map, after remaining in the shadows since independence.
Akin to the neighbouring state of Assam where BJP received a gem of a leader from Congress in the form of Himanta Biswa Sarma, Manipur has seen a similar pattern. Biren had resigned from the Manipur Assembly and Pradesh Congress Committee in 2016 after revolting against Ibobi Singh. After the exit, Biren remarked that he was not allowed to voice his opinion in the party.
A stellar report card of the last five years
It is under Biren’s tenure that land boundary disputes with Bangladesh were resolved through an agreement. The Bru-Reang Pact and Bodo Pact have been signed.
As many as eight insurgent groups have been negotiated with and about 3,000 militants have surrendered their weapons and joined the mainstream of society. There have been minimal blockades and overall peace has returned to the beautiful state.
Before Biren assumed power, only 5 percent households in Manipur had a tap water supply. Today, it is more than 51 percent, with the government aiming for 4.5 lakh households by March, under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
Biren has done admirable work in the education sector as well. His government introduced School Fagathansi Mission and covered 60 schools which increased enrollment in Government schools by 25 percent.
Additionally, two hundred and thirty-seven schools spread across the State have been amalgamated to nearby schools having better infrastructure, better connectivity under the mission for overall improvement.
Under Chief Minister-gi Hakshelgi Tengbang (CMHT) and Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), 8.09 lakhs beneficiaries had been enrolled and 1.1 lakh beneficiaries had received free treatment worth 123 crores rupees till October 2021.
Biren is still not complacent
Despite a stellar resume showcasing his work, Biren is cautious and not complacent. Speaking to his cadre workers, Biren made it clear that they need to work hard if the party is to secure another mandate.
He said, “You know BJP is leading a coalition government now. We have to work hard to get an absolute majority this time (in the assembly elections)”
A true ground leader
Biren is a leader who has been connected to the ground, throughout his life. The BJP stalwart was only 18 years old when he joined BSF and played for the forces after some officials of the BSF spotted him during a football match in Imphal.
He was also the first football player from the state to have played outside Manipur. He played the final of the Durand Cup in 1981 for the BSF team and won the trophy by defeating JCT 1-0. After becoming the CM, he has not forgotten his roots.
In December last year, Biren himself at his office complex handed over Rs 3 lakh each to 15 football clubs participating in the Manipur State League. During the ceremony, Biren said he had personally experienced how difficult it is to run a sports club and bring it up to the state or national level.
As such, the state government decided to provide at least some financial help to the football clubs, which produce players at the state level.
Congress heading towards its doom
As reported by TFI, Congress and its dynastic politics seem to have finally caught up in Manipur as well. Earlier this week, senior party MLA Dr Chaltonlien Amo jumped the ship and joined BJP.
Similarly, former Manipur Congress chief Govindas Konthoujam had also joined the BJP in August 2021. The list of Congress leaders joining the BJP has significantly increased in the last few months. The way things are unfolding; Congress is likely heading towards a crushing defeat, with Biren engineering the entire saga.