Defectors From Other Parties a Majority in BJP's First List for Manipur Polls

A majority of the 31-candidate list are those who had defected from other parties – particularly the Congress – which has led to protests outside the party office in Imphal.

New Delhi: After putting its list of candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in Manipur on hold for two days, the Bharatiya Janata Party finally released its first list of contestants for 31 constituencies of the state in New Delhi on Monday.

The fact that the major part of the list included names of candidates who had defected from other parties – particularly the Congress – angered a large number of party cadre and ticket hopefuls.

On January 20, a day after the party’s central election committee met in New Delhi to finalise the names, a list of 17 names reached Imphal informally, triggering a huge protest from the supporters of several ticket seekers.

Holding banners and raising slogans in front of the party office, they vented their anger at the leaders and at “New Delhi” for “discriminating loyal party workers to favour turncoats and those who have no grassroots connection.”

The January 23 list, finalised by the election committee president Amit Shah along with the Prime Minster Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley and committee members, included the names of Congress defectors Yumkham Erabot Singh, who joined BJP in September, N. Biren Singh, the former Congress vice president who joined BJP in October, L. Radhakishore Singh, the former Congress minister who joined BJP in September, Kh Loken Singh, who left Congress in October, Francis Ngajokpa, who left Congress to join BJP in November, M. Hemanta Singh, also a former Congress leader who joined BJP in 2014 and Kikhondou Newmai.

Newmai, a Congress MLA, joined the BJP barely three weeks ago.

The list also included former Trinamool Congress leaders Th. Biswajit Singh (who defected from Trinamool Congress in 2015 and won one of the two seats for the BJP in the state assembly in the by-elections), S. Rajan Singh (who left Trinamool Congress in September), Kh. Ibomcha Singh (who contested the 2012 assembly polls as a Trinamool Congress candidate) and R. K. Shivachandra (who joined the BJP from Trinamool Congress in 2014) and former Manipur People’s Party (MPP) leaders Kh. Nimaichand Luwang (who joined the BJP in 2014) and Okram Joy Singh (the former president of MPP who joined the BJP in 2015).

Y. Radheshyam Singh, a former CPI and Trinamool Congress leader who rejoined the BJP after he was expelled from it for anti-party activities, also found his name from Hiyanglam constituency. Former Nationalist Congress Party leader P Sharatchandra Singh, who joined the BJP in 2012, was also among the 31 names in the first list.

BJP state president Th. Chaoba Singh, who is set to contest the assembly polls from Nambol on a party ticket, was also a former Congress union minister and deputy chief minister of a Congress government in Manipur.

Credit: Special arrangement

BJP supporters take out a march in Manipur. Credit: Special arrangement

“I returned to Manipur from Gujarat four years ago to work for the BJP after seeing the good work done by Narendra Modi as the state chief minister but the party refused me a ticket in spite of my good work for a candidate whose father is a senior BJP leader. I ask from when has BJP become a father-son party?” asked C. Bijoy, a party councilor from Patsoi constituency. On January 20, his supporters, including several women, were spotted in front of the party office holding banners demanding a ticket for him.

N. Chaoba, a dejected BJP worker in Patsoi, told The Sanghai Express, “The party’s central leaders said those who contributed significantly to strengthen the party and educated the masses on the many flagship programmes taken up by the BJP government at the Centre would be given BJP ticket. Giving party tickets to persons who can lobby the most is unacceptable.”

Yet another ticket hopeful, MI Khan, “decided to join another party” in a public meeting after he was denied a ticket from Keira constituency.

A senior party state committee member, who didn’t want to be named, told this correspondent in New Delhi after the first list was released, “So what if they were Congress leaders, they can win the election as BJP members this time. The aim behind the selection of the candidates is win-ability. Right now, our aim is to form the next government in Manipur.”

The union HRD minister Prakash Javdekar, who is in charge of the Manipur polls, visited Imphal on January 15 to hold a core committee meeting to decide on the modalities for ticket distribution.

Manipur goes to polls in two phases on March 4 and March 8 to fill its 60-member legislative assembly. While 38 constituencies would go to polls on March 4, people in the remaining 22 constituencies will vote on March 8.

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