The war has begun. Battle-lines have been drawn. After the exit of the enigmatic Yumkham Irabot from the Congress party, the charismatic Nongthombam Biren of Heingang constituency has left the party in the run-up to the 2017 state assembly elections. Yumkham Irabot has long been an outsider with the Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh unofficially propping up his nephew Okram Henry Singh in Wangkhei assembly constituency. Even though Okram Henry is presently embroiled in the case of Tulihal drug haul, the Chief Minister has been silent on the issue while tacitly supporting his nephew. It is a known fact that, the state has long been silent on the illegal activities and antics of Okram Henry, which left Yumkham Irabot with no option but to resign from Congress party and join the BJP bandwagon. Okram Ibobi’s nemesis Yumkham Irabot leaving Congress party is a big loss for the party but it failed to give a high profile effect. On the other hand, Nongthombam Biren’s exit did give a jolt to the party and state politics. The axe wielding one time champion of Manipur’s territorial integrity Nongthombam Biren was a charismatic political animal. He won the state assembly elections with a ticket from Democratic Revolutionary Peoples Party (DRPP) with some of his colleagues including the faithful Dr Meina MP riding on the wave of the movement for protection of the territorial integrity of Manipur. And later he joined the Congress party, although he remained basically an outsider and rebel. While serving as a Minister under the autocratic Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, he did not completely severe his relations with the leaders of the mainstream civil society groups. In fact, he was a troubleshooter for the Ibobi government in many of the uprisings of civil society against the government. After he was excluded from the third Okram Ibobi ministry, there was practically no one to troubleshoot the different crises happening in the state. This term, he has been a critic of the different government policies and numbing silence of the government on major controversies in the state including the delay in passing an appropriate migrants bill and Churachandpur crisis. He in fact led the recent dissidence in the Congress party which led to the exit of Gaikhangam from Manipur Pradesh Congress Party and entry of TN Haokip and reshuffle of the ministry. He was the architect of the entire dissident movement which earned him the coveted position of the party spokesperson. Yet the question is why he leaved the party for which he so dearly fought for control. It is for sure that Nongthombam Biren would be joining the upcoming BJP, but with certain conditions. The protection of the territorial integrity of Manipur is one he cannot do without. However, the stand of BJP with regard to the territorial integrity of Manipur is always accompanied by a question mark. The controversy over the inclusion of the words ‘without territorial limits’ during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s rule is one and the signing of the secretive ‘Framework Agreement’ under Narendra Modi government is another. The NSCN protégé Naga Peoples Front (NPF) has an alliance with the BJP in Nagaland state while BJP distances itself from NPF in Manipur. This speaks volumes. Nongthombam Biren has to be very clear of the integration politics, if he has to endear himself to the electorate. His current endeavour and outreach to other constituencies beyond Heingang is understandable with regard to his ambitions. Yet, he has to win Heingang first.
Leader Writer: Irengbam Arun
Source: Imphal Free Press