BJP ushered in a state of peace, normalcy: Manipur CM Biren Singh
Manipur CM Biren Singh said the BJP-led state government has achieved so many things in terms of governance, welfare activities and development projects, including infrastructure, besides an overall improvement in law and order.
After five years of political churn in Manipur precipitated by many opposition Congress MLAs switching sides and aligning with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), elections to the 60-member assembly are set to be held on February 27 and March 3. In an interview with Utpal Parashar, chief minister N Biren Singh spoke on the BJP’s poll prospects, his government’s performance and other issues in the northeasten state.
How is the campaign going on till now for the BJP? How many seats does the party hope to win?
We had to rely on virtual rallies and social media for the campaign as the Election Commission of India has put a ban on physical rallies in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are optimistic of winning more than 40 seats.
One of your coalition partners, National People’s Party (NPP), has decided to contest alone. They have also kept open the option of joining either the Congress or the BJP after the polls. Do you think it could impact BJP’s prospects in the elections or in formation of the next government?
We are fully confident of forming the next government.
What do you think are your government’s biggest achievements in the past five years?
The BJP-led state government has achieved so many things in terms of governance, welfare activities and development projects, including infrastructure, besides an overall improvement in law and order.
Through the Go to Hills programme, we have achieved considerable progress in bridging the hill-valley divide and restoring the confidence of the hill people, while also balancing the development budget in these areas through increased funding, based on topography.
Through the Go to Village mission, we have been able to take governance at the village level even into remote regions and now, people in interior areas of the state areas are availing several facilities and welfare benefits.
Besides these two important missions, the government has introduced several welfare schemes for the underprivileged and vulnerable sections of society, sportspersons, artists, etc., and not to forget, the Chief Minister Hakshel gi Tengbang, the first ever health insurance scheme taken up by a state to benefit the poor and needy.
Here, we would like to hail the landmark decision of the government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement the inner line permit (ILP) system in the state. It will be remembered as one of the most important political episodes of all time in the history of Manipur.
One of the most important achievements of the government is ensuring a bandh, blockade-free Manipur, which had long been impeding development and peace in the state.
You have been vocal about repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) from Manipur. But the BJP is the ruling party both in the state and Centre. Do you think this could impact voters?
Insurgency and Afspa have always been important issues. However, in recent times, we were able to bring insurgency activities to a bare minimum, ushering in a state of peace and normalcy. People are beginning to feel the change and we are happy that we were able to achieve this in such a short time.
There have been several instances of violence in the state, including the attack on an Assam Rifles convoy as well as killings of political party workers. Do you think there could be more such instances in the run up to the elections? If so, could that impact polls?
Security has been beefed up in view of the elections, and we are in a state of high alert to prevent such incidents.
The unemployment rate in Manipur is 9.5% as per Union labour ministry’s data tabled in Parliament last year. It is the second highest in northeast after Nagaland and the Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse. Do you think this could impact the BJP’s prospects?
Our government has been able to generate 1 lakh employment opportunities in the MSME sector alone. Human resource is our strength and biggest resource. Our youth is brimming with talent and innovative ideas, just waiting to be tapped and nudged in the right direction. Banks helped with the necessary financial support through schemes like StartUp and StandUp. Never before in the history of Manipur has a state government had such a good working relationship with the banks in the state.
There has been no final outcome to the issue of granting Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community as well as passing of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill. Do you think both these issues could hurt BJP’s prospects in Imphal Valley as well as the hill districts?
It would not impact our prospects as people understand that these issues need careful consideration and consensus.
There has been some speculation that the BJP might use the same option it did in Assam last year while deciding on the chief ministerial candidate after the elections. What do you have to say to that?
It is for the party leadership to decide.