The Bharatiya Janata Party ended days of suspense by selecting N Biren Singh for the second time as Manipur Chief Minister, ten days after the election results were declared. Singh, has been chosen over two other contenders Biswajit Singh and Yumnam Khemchand.
The three contenders for the top post had met with the BJP’s central leadership in Delhi on yesterday (March 19), as the party debated over who would be Manipur’s next CM.
BJP’s central observers for Manipur, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Kiren Rijiju, flew to Imphal to announce the CM candidate. Biren Singh, who is a former footballer and journalist, had been at the forefront of the BJP campaign in Manipur and had won from Heingang seat defeating his rival Congress candidate by 18,271 votes.
Biswajit Singh, who was also in the reckoning for the CM’s post, had been in the BJP longer than Biren Singh. But, Biren Singh was chosen as CM the first time after the 2017 elections.
In the 2022 assembly elections, the BJP won with a slim margin of 32 seats out of 60 and the central leadership was anxious that rivals should not exploit the situation. The BJP’s poll promises for peace, development, stability — a stark contrast to the tumultuous 15-year Congress regime under Okram Ibobi Singh, which was marked by bandhs, blockades and a sharp rise in extra-judicial killings — seemed to have struck a chord with voters.
The third contender Yumnam Khemchand Singh, a speaker in the previous Assembly, was backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the CM’s post.
One of Biren Singh’s election promise had to do with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, which gives the military sweeping powers over civilians. Though he said he would work to remove AFSPA, he struck a balanced approach taking into account the ground reality.
Singh, who had started off as a footballer, got recruited in the Border Security Force (BSF) playing for its team in domestic competitions. He became a journalist after leaving the BSF and even launched a vernacular daily, Naharolgi Thoudang, in 1992 and worked as its editor till 2001.
He joined politics in 2002, when he fought and won his first electoral battle from Manipur’s Heingang assembly constituency. He retained the seat in 2007 on a Congress ticket and served as a minister till 2012. Four years later, he joined the BJP, and in 2017, he won from his seat again, after which he was made the CM