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No leadership struggle in Manipur BJP: Sharda Devi

“We have N Biren Singh as the Chief Minister and we are fighting the elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and we will follow the decision of the High Command,” she said.

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Imphal: Ruling out any scope for a leadership tussle in the BJP legislature party after the Assembly polls, its Manipur state Chief Adhikarimayum Sharda Devi on Thursday exuded confidence of the party “easily” getting an absolute majority. 

Sharda, now busy campaigning for the party in the run-up to the second and final phase of polls on March 5, predicted that BJP would win 26 of the 38 constituencies which went to the hustings in the first phase on February 28. 

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The remaining 22 seats in the 60-member House cover 80 per cent of the state’s hills and 20 per cent of the valley areas. 

“We will pick up 26 seats in the first phase. Hence, we will easily get to the magic figure of 30 plus after the two-phase polls,” Sharda, the first woman president of Manipur BJP, told UNI in an exclusive interview. 

Asked about the party’s plans for a post-poll alliance if it falls short of a majority, she said: “At the moment we are confident of getting an absolute majority and hence we have not yet contemplated any post-poll alliance.” 

Sharda is keeping up a punishing schedule, addressing public meetings and BJP workers and going house-to-house to canvas for votes, with the party deciding to go it alone in the election after having led a coalition government for the past five years. 

The BJP, which had finished with 21 seats in the 2017 elections, formed the government by aligning with National People’s Party (NPP), Naga People’s Front (NPF), Lok Janshakti Party, Trinamool Congress and an Independent MLA. This time, the BJP has set an ambitious target of establishing a government with an absolute majority on its own, and towards that end put up candidates in all 60 constituencies. 

However, the party has not named any Chief Ministerial candidate, though the incumbent N Biren Singh has received accolades from party stalwarts like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the campaign for his work. 

Political circles have been speculating that the decision was taken to ward off any chances of in-fighting during electioneering, with a number of leaders nursing Chief Ministerial ambitions. But Sharda said there was no question of a tussle for leadership. All leaders and candidates have been working by strictly adhering to the BJP’s principles during the election campaign. 

“We have N Biren Singh as the Chief Minister and we are fighting the elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and we will follow the decision of the High Command,” she said. 

Sharda, who easily melts with the masses and commands respect from the BJP leadership, belongs to the group of hardcore BJP workers who worked for the party since their student days. She was all praise for the role played by the party’s central leadership in the campaign. 

“The central leadership has been very supportive and, lot of leaders frequently visited the state to help in the election campaign,” she said, adding the party was determined to protect Manipur’s territorial integrity at all costs. She averred that the BJP does not support “Greater Nagaland” or any demand which may disturb Manipur’s territorial integrity. When it was announced in 2001 that the truce with NSCN(IM) would be extended beyond territorial limits there were protests in Manipur. 

“It is historic that the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee heard the voice of Manipur and announced in Parliament the expression “beyond territorial limit” would be withdrawn,” she said. 

The expression “beyond territorial limit” indicated the extension of truce with NSCN(IM) beyond Nagaland which was rejected by the people of Manipur. 

Assailing the Congress, she said the opposition party was only interested in community-based politics. “The Congress only speaks in terms of community,” she said referring to the allegation that the BJP has reached an agreement with some militant groups prior to the elections. 

“No one should raise (issues promoting) community-based politics. Please see the broader perspective of the oneness of the nation which the BJP firmly believes,” she said. Sharda said the law and order situation has vastly improved under the BJP-led government and the “fear within and outside” has “vanished.” 

The main plank of the BJP’s campaign is its success in stopping bandhs and blockades which were frequent during Congress rule. In this context, Sharda recalled that during the election campaign she met a youth, Pater Kodar who was a victim of the frequent bandhs and blockades. Happy to move freely and work without fear, Kodar has composed a song praising BJP rule in Manipur, she said. The song has become extremely popular and was sung whenever central leaders visited Manipur. 

Queried about the rising unemployment in the state, she said: “We should not see government jobs only as jobs, the focus is to make youths “Atmanirbhar” (self-reliant) and become successful in life and earn their livelihood, it is as good as any government job,” she said. 

“It is not possible to solve the unemployment problem, which the state has been facing for a long time, within five years. For the benefit of the youths, start-up programmes were initiated which bore fruits” she added. 

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