How BJP’s poster boy in NE India, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is managing Manipur’s muddle

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is strategically managing the affairs of Manipur for the BJP.

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Imphal, March 13: Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior Assam minister, who holds several portfolios in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state, is busy managing the affairs of the party in Manipur. After winning the Assam Assembly elections in 2016, the saffron party targeted to win the polls in the neighbouring state of Manipur. Since then Sarma along with Ram Madhav, national general secretary of the BJP, are working together to stitch BJP's massive victory in Manipur in the recently concluded elections, the results of which were announced on Saturday.

Although the Congress has secured 28 seats, getting the maximum seats in the 60-member Manipur Assembly, the BJP with 21 seats has staked its claim to form the next government in the state. On Sunday, the BJP submitted a list of 32 legislators to Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah, claiming the support of 11 other MLAs -- four of Naga People's Front, four National People's Party, one Lok Janshakti Party, one Independent and one Trinamool Congress Party.

Himanta Biswa Sarma

After the BJP staked its claim to form the next government in the state, in a late night development on Sunday, incumbent chief minister and Congress party leader in Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh, told reporters that he has also met Heptullah and staked the party's claim to form the government for the fourth time in a row.

In such a confusing scenario, the key to government formation lies in the hands of the smaller parties. Sarma, known to be a shrewd politician, has managed to bring together winning candidates of the NPF, the NPP, the LJP, Independent and the TMC to the BJP's fold.

Reports say Sarma is the main brain behind convincing Congress MLA Shyamkumar Singh from Andro constituency to defect his former party on Sunday. In fact, Singh and Sarma were seen together travelling in the same vehicle on Sunday. Sarma told the media that more Congress MLAs are likely to join the BJP in coming days. He claimed that another 13 Congress MLAs will join the BJP soon.

"Confident of forming a @BJP4India govt in #Manipur as of now to keep the saffron march on in the #NorthEast," Sarma tweeted on Saturday. "Meeting her Excellency Guv of #Manipur Smt Najma Heptullah ji to stake claim to form a @BJP4India led Govt in state. #MissionAccomplished," Sarma tweeted on Sunday.

Sarma is fast becoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi's man in the northeast region. After stitching together the saffron party's astonishing victory in Assam last year, now Sarma is all set to offer his party Manipur. Sarma, a former student leader and senior Congress leader, left his former party as he alleged being sidelined by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Many in Assam media circle say that Sarma is taking revenge on the Congress for not making him the chief minister of the state when the party was in power for 15 years till last year.

In mid-2016, Sarma was made the convenor of North-East Democratic Alliance. The new platform of the BJP was formed for development of all northeastern states, hours after Sarbananda Sonowal was sworn-in as the 14th chief minister of Assam last year. Under Sarma's leadership, the BJP came to power in Arunachal Pradesh also.

Till recently, the BJP hardly had any presence in the northeast India. Today, it is set to form its government in Manipur, taking over government machineries in three states of the region. Moreover, Manipur victory is a big bolster for the saffron as the BJP failed to win a single seat in the assembly polls during 2012.

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