Fine mix of the tested and untested Council of Ministers
Chief Minister N Biren is an old hand in the craft of politics, having made his Assembly debut way back in 2002 and now in his second term as the Chief Minister of Manipur, he must have surely come to grips with the politics of being the first among equals. It is with this sense of optimism one may look at the full strength of the Council of Ministers but surely there will be some or many among those who have been looked over who have been left disappointed. And one here is not only talking about those who got elected as BJP candidates in the recent Assembly election but those who were ‘unjustly’ looked over while coming out with the list of BJP candidates, but who nonetheless contested as Independents and got elected. Apart from this, the 12th Assembly election may also be remembered for some firsts it managed to notch up. For the first time Manipur saw a total of five women candidates being elected to the House of 60 and one hopes this is not an aberration but becomes some sort of a trend where women can become serious candidates and all political parties acknowledge the prospect of nominating women as their official candidates. Here again it is heartening to note that the five women candidates are drawn from all over the State, meaning they are not confined to any specific community or district. If the valley area elected S Kebi of the BJP from Naoriya Pakhanglakpa Assembly Constituency and I Nalini of the NPP from Oinam AC, there is Nemcha Kipgen of the BJP from Kangpokpi AC, SS Olish also of the BJP from Chandel AC and Kimneo Hangshing of the Kuki People’s Alliance from Saikul AC. Five women MLAs and out of them one has made it to the list of the 12 chosen in the person of Nemcha Kipgen, who incidentally made it to the Council of Ministers initially in the first term of the BJP led Government but was dropped later. One Minister out of five women MLAs elected and this is best left to the political analysts to study whether this representation is found wanting or is enough. More importantly will the decision to induct one woman MLA in the Council of Ministers be not more than an act of tokenism is a question which has been raised by some sceptics. Only time till tell and one hopes the decision to induct Nemcha Kipgen goes beyond mere symbolism.
It is also interesting to note that Chief Minister N Biren has stuck to his pre-poll announcement of going along only with the NPF and keeping out the NPP. 12 Ministers and it should be obvious that it would not have been possible to induct one MLA each from all the 16 districts and this is precisely this point which the Chief Minister sought to convey while expanding the Council of Ministers. Equally interesting too is the fact that of the 12 in the Council of Ministers, at least 5 would be first time Ministers. Govindas Konthoujam is an old hand, having been Ministers in different capacities while he was with the Congress but this is the first time that he would be a Minister in a BJP led regime. Ukhrul district would have felt vindicated in a certain sense as it now has a Minister after years, despite the fact that this district, then undivided, had given two Chief Ministers to the State of Manipur in the persons of the late Yangmasho Shaiza and Rishang Keishing. Churachandpur, Senapati and Jiribam are three districts which have no representation in the Council of Ministers but it should not be forgotten that Ministers are there for the whole of Manipur and not just one Assembly Constituency or one district. This is a fundamental point which should register in the minds of everyone. Important too for all the 12 in the Council of Ministers to remember that they are all equals though the Chief Minister is supposed to be the first among the equals.