IMPHAL: After winning four out of the five seats in the Assembly bypolls on Tuesday, the BJP, which is heading a coalition government in Manipur since 2017, became the single largest party and further strengthened its political domination in the northeastern state, officials and commentators said on Wednesday.
After wresting the four Assembly seats, including one uncontested, from the Congress, the BJP, which leading the coalition government in Manipur in alliance with the National People's Party (NPP) and the Naga People's Front (NPF), increased its numbers to 23 in the 60-member House (with an effective strength of 53).
A senior official of the Manipur Assembly said on Wednesday that the Congress has now become the second largest party with 17 members followed by the NPP and the NPF with four each. The All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) has one member while there are four Independent and local party members.
"Following the resignations of Congress MLAs and due to the cases pending in the courts and tribunals, there were 12 vacant seats in the Manipur Assembly. Of the 12 vacant seats, the Election Commission has held by-elections to five seats on November 7, the results of which were declared on Tuesday," said the official on conditions of anomnimity.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party securing 28 seats. But the BJP, which bagged 21 seats, stitched together a coalition government with the support of four NPP MLAs, four NPF MLAs, the lone Trinamool MLA and an Independent member.
In June this year, some BJP MLAs quit the party and the Assembly to join the Congress.
The bypolls were necessitated after Congress MLAs, elected in the 2017 elections from these five seats, resigned from the Assembly and joined the ruling BJP.
The BJP candidates wrested the Wangoi, Wangjing-Tentha and Saitu Assembly seats from the Congress while the saffron party nominee Ginsuanhau was elected unopposed from Singhat seat in Churachandpur district on October 22 after Independent nominee Chinlunthang withdrew his candidature.
In a surprising outcome, in the Lilong Assembly seat, Independent candidate Y. Antas Khan secured 17,106 votes to defeat nearest BJP-supported Independent rival Mohammad Abdul Nasir by 3,078 votes.
Soon after the announcement of the bypoll results, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister NirmalaSitharaman, Sports Minister KirenRijiju and the central BJP leaders congratulated Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh for the saffron party's success in the by-elections.
Manipur Chief Minister N.Biren Singh said in a tweet: "A huge day for BJP in Manipur. We won four out of five seats -- Manipur BJP contested in only four Assembly Constituencies in Manipur Assembly bypoll. Once again, the people of Manipur have shown their trust in principles & ideology of BJP and leadership of Hon'ble PM, ShriNarendraModiji."
The State's leading daily 'Imphal Free Press' said that the Independent MLA Y. Antas Khan is bound to support the BJP government like the other Independent MLA from Jiribam.
"Now that the Chief Minister has a sizeable number and full backing from the top leadership of the BJP, his political stature in the party has greatly increased. While internal dissension has simmered down in the past months, the bargaining capacity of its allies like NPP and NPF would be reduced. All he has to do is to juggle the support of the junior partners and the Independents or play them against each other," the newspaper observed.
Political observer RajkumarChinglen Singh said: "After Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP's political base further strengthens in Manipur. The saffron party is in alliance with the ruling NPP in Meghalaya, Mizo National Front in Mizoram and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland and has MLAs in these states too with ministerial berth in Meghalya." (IANS)