The exodus from the ruling BJP in election-bound Manipur continued with party MLA and retired IAS officer P. Saratchandra, former Minister N. Biren, and a state government PSU’s former chief N. Joykumar joining the Congress on Monday.
The Congress’ election in-charge for Manipur Bhakta Charan Das and former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh welcomed all the three leaders at a function.
Meanwhile, five other BJP leaders including Ningthoujam Mangi and S. Sovachandra also joined the National People’s Party (NPP), the junior ally of the BJP. Earlier BJP leaders Lourembam Sanjoy Singh and Thangjam Arunkumar had joined it.
BJP leader Thangjam Arunkumar and decorated woman police officer-turned-firebrand leader Thounaojam Brinda joined the Janata Dal-United on Sunday night.
The Congress, the NPP, and the JD-U are likely to nominate most of the BJP deserters, who quit the saffron party after not being considered as party nominees for the coming Assembly elections, slated for February 27 and March 3.
The JD-U, which sitting Congress legislator K. Joykishan and former Minister Abdul Nasir recently joined, suddenly became more relevant in Manipur politics after so many important leaders joined the party.
Ticket aspirants of the ruling BJP and their supporters, who burnt effigies of Central and state party leaders, torched party flags, banners and posters and allegedly forced the closure of few party offices and in different parts of Manipur as protests erupted on Sunday after the party announced all 60 candidates, continued their protests on Monday.
However, BJP leaders in Imphal denied any large-scale protests saying that some “minor discontent were expressed by some party men and these are all manageable”, but they also worried after several party leaders, including a sitting MLA quit the party.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh accompanied by senior leaders on Monday held a meeting with the party candidates and discussed the election strategies.
Apprehending possible protests after the announcement of the names of the candidates, the police authorities have tightened the security and deployed additional force for about a week in the state BJP headquarters in Imphal and few other districts preventing the large-scale attacks and incidents.
The security of the party’s state President A. Sharda Devi, ministers and MLAs was heightened.
At least 10 of the 16 former Congress leaders who joined the BJP in recent years were given tickets as the ruling party announced to contest in all 60 seats without any alliance with any party.
Meanwhile, Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Y. Joykumar Singh, who is also the NPP Vice President, said that his party would try to nominate those leaders rejected by the BJP for the coming election.
With four MLAs, the NPP has been an ally of the BJP-led government since 2017.
The NPP, headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, however, announced to contest the elections on its own this time and would field candidates in at least 40 seats.
Another ally of the BJP-led government, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), is still undecided on a pre-poll alliance in Manipur.
The BJP, which had bagged 21 seats in 2017, came to power for the first time, stitching together a coalition government with the support of four NPP MLAs, four NPF members, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and an Independent member, though the Congress, which was governing the state for the last 15 years, emerged as the single-largest party with 28 seats.
The Congress, which released its first list of 40 candidates, last week announced a pre-poll alliance with four Left parties and Janata Dal-Secular.