Will win 40-plus seats in Manipur: BJP state chief A Sharda Devi

Imphal: The BJP will get a majority in Manipur by winning over 40 seats in the 60-member assembly, the party’s state president A Sharda Devi said.

In an interview with PTI, Devi said the next chief minister of the state will be decided by the party’s top leadership after the election results are declared.

“This time, we have full confidence of winning 40-plus seats. At the moment, there are 29 sitting MLAs of the BJP and to reach 41, we need only 12 more. On the basis of the developmental works done by the government and the feedback from the people on the ground, we are confident that we will win over 40 seats,” she said.

Devi reiterated the party’s commitment to protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur, but refrained from commenting on the talks between Centre and NSCN(IM) under the Framework Agreement signed in 2015.

“We don’t like to comment on the talks that the Centre is holding with other groups. However, as we have put as the first point in our manifesto, the territorial integrity of Manipur cannot be compromised. Our commitment is to nationalism and national integration. So we will stand for integrity,” she said.

The Naga rebel group has been demanding the formation of ‘Greater Nagaland’ by integrating Naga-dominated areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

On the next chief minister of the state, she said, “There is no question of chief minister arising right now in the party. We have a CM now and we have not dwelled on who will be our CM in the new assembly. In future, it will be decided by the higher authority of the party and we will discuss.”

Polling will be held in Manipur for 60 assembly constituencies in two phases — February 28 and March 5. The votes will be counted on March 10.

Brushing aside the Congress’s claim of returning to power in the state, Devi said, “They will say what they want on the basis of their analysis, but we are confident that we will win more than 40 seats on the basis of our analysis.”

While the BJP has fielded candidates in all the 60 seats, Devi claimed that there is an understanding with allies in some of the constituencies.

“There are friendly fights,” she said.

Devi said that there would be no significant impact of those candidates who are now contesting from other parties, having failed to get a BJP ticket.

“The number of intending candidates were large, ranging from three to eight in a constituency. Many of them have pledged to continue to support the party even after not getting the ticket, apart from a few who left but that won’t impact us,” she asserted.

Dismissing the accusation that the BJP was ignoring its old-timers and nominating the newcomers from Congress, Devi said, “It is not about neglecting them and giving preferential treatment to those who have joined from other parties. When you want something better, we have to choose the best from time to time, as it is about country first (for BJP), and in the state assembly election, it is about state first.”

Devi said the state BJP has been working for the removal of Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from Manipur — a long-pending demand of the people.

“It is not about putting it on the manifesto or not, everyone wants removal of AFSPA. We have been working at our best level for its removal,” she said on the removal of AFSPA not finding a mention in the party’s manifesto.

“We have always tried to convert into action what we have put in our manifesto but that doesn’t mean that we don’t take up issues which are not a part of the manifesto,” she added.

Asked if the BJP would remove AFSPA if voted to power again in the state, she said, “We will always do what the people want.”

However, she said that it needs to be studied why the previous Congress government withdrew AFSPA from only seven assembly constituencies in Imphal in 2004, and not the entire state.

“At the same time, we also don’t want any disturbance to happen which will hinder the progress of the state,” Devi said.

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