BJP, Congress trying to woo splinter parties in Manipur

Imphal,(IANS) The ruling Congress and the BJP have secured 28 and 21 seats respectively in a hung assembly after the Manipur assembly elections, and are exploring ways to get support from the splinter parties to form the government.

Even before the Manipur assembly election results were declared on Saturday, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were looking for support from smaller groups to form the next government.

Assam Finance Minister and North Eastern Democratic Alliance convener Hemanta Biswa Sarma said: “The Naga People’s Front has written a letter to Governor Najma Heptullah that it will support the BJP.”

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, an old hand at the coalition politics, is personally handling the Congress campaign to woo splinter parties.

Senior BJP leaders are also directly supervising the process of political alliance with some groups.

Thounaojam Chaoba, the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP, was defeated and the party is yet to choose another prospect.

“BJP with the support of coalition partners shall form the next ministry,” party spokesperson Nongthombam Biren said. He, however, did not disclose the names of the parties.

The BJP and Congress will hold their meetings here on Sunday to discuss their course of action regarding the formation of the next government in the state.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) with one seat and the Naga People’s Front (NPF) with four seats have announced support for the BJP as they are partners of the NDA government at the Centre.

Manipur state Congress President T.N. Haokip said the NPF has close connections with the United Naga Council which imposed indefinite economic blockade against the state, and will not join hands with the party.

The National People’s Party is also closer to the BJP, though it is yet to make its stand public.

Senior leaders said the Congress will join hands with the like-minded parties.

The ruling Congress had joined hands with the Communist Party of India (CPI) a decade ago, even though the party could form the government on its own.

Congress leader Bijoy Koijam was strongly opposed to the coalition as the ministerial berths could be given to some dissidents. However, Ibobi Singh continued the coalition culture.

According to sources, Congress leaders will call on Governor Heptullah soon to stake claim to form the government.

“Being the single largest party, the Congress should be given the first chance,” a senior leader said.

However, the BJP leaders do not agree. Biren, who is being considered as the chief ministerial candidate, said: “Democracy is a number game. We have now majority with the support of like-minded parties. We will stake claim shortly.”

The bargaining chip for supporting either the BJP or the Congress is ministerial berths.

The Manipur Chief Minister can have 12 ministers. With the NDA government at the Centre, the political balance is tilted in favour of the BJP in Manipur.

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