One source says with Haokib's change of constituency, the party might be in 'general understanding' with the NPP leadership so that the BJP-NPP harmony is not disturbed.
New Delhi: Election time becomes confrontation time among allies and friends.
The NPP, led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, is a key BJP ally in the northeast sharing power in Meghalaya and Manipur and is also an NDA constituent at the national level. But on Wednesday, December 29, the BJP struck a major surprise and won over Manipur Sports Minister Letpao Haokib. He joined the saffron party in the presence of Union Minister Bhupender Yadav and BJP in charge of the state, Sambit Patra.
Notably, NPP chief and Meghalaya Chief Minister Sangma visited Manipur only on December 27 and reviewed the party's poll preparedness in Manipur, which goes to the polls along with UP, Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand by February-March. In fact, in quite an ironic situation, NPP legislator Y. Joykumar Singh is the deputy chief minister in the N. Biren Singh-led coalition government in the state.
In 2017 polls, BJP had won 21 seats in the 60-member assembly and formed the government with alliance partners, such as NPP. Sangma's party won four seats in 2017 and bargained hard for the deputy chief minister's post.
Elections in Manipur will be a keenly watched contest with Congress as the principal opponent of the BJP, especially given the pending finalisation of a peace pact with Naga rebel groups. Nagas have a substantial presence in hilly regions, and Nagaland-based regional party, NPF had picked up four seats in the 2017 elections.
Sports Minister Haokib represented Haokip, a politically sensitive Chandel constituency and 2017 saw a fierce multi-cornered contest in Chandel with seven candidates in the fray including BJP, Trinamool Congress, NPF and the Congress. However, in 2022 polls, Haokib may shift constituency and contest from the Tengnoupal assembly segment. The NPP is likely to field Congress MLA D Korungthang in Chandel.
Haokib, a former football player, is from the Kuki tribal community, and the BJP poll strategists feel his joining in the party will attract youngsters into the Lotus party fold.
NPP is likely to contest only in 15 seats. While in the absence of any pre-poll alliance, the BJP may contest all 60 seats and has set a target of 40 on its own.