IMPHAL, March 15 - Fifty-six-year-old national-level footballer-turned-journalist-turned-politician Nongthombam Biren Singh was today sworn in as the Chief Minister of the BJP-led coalition government in Manipur.
Governor Dr Najma A Heptulla administered the oath of office and secrecy to Singh who switched over to the BJP in October last year along with Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar Singh and seven other Cabinet ministers, at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan here around 1:20 pm.
Cabinet ministers � Th Biswajit Singh (BJP), L Jayantakumar Singh, Letpao Haokip, N Kayisii, Losii Dikho (all from the National People�s Party), Karam Shyam (Lok Janshakti Party), and Th Shyamkumar, the Congress MLA who joined the coalition after his election, also took oath.
Though the new Chief Minister gave no indication, a key functionary of the BJP in government formation claimed that the next expansion is expected after March 23 as the Cabinet can accommodate at least 12 ministers.
Biren Singh, who became the 24th Chief Minister of Manipur, told media persons after the swearing-in ceremony that lifting of the ongoing indefinite blockade on Manipur highways will be his government�s first priority. He also spelled out other priorities of the new government like equal development of the valley and hills for a united Manipur and a corruption-free administration.
�Considering the suffering of people on humanitarian ground, I appeal to the United Naga Council (UNC) to lift the blockade,� said Biren Singh while addressing a reception function at the BJP Manipur Pradesh office here later in the day. �Whatever be the reason, we can sit together and sort out (the problem),� he added.
Manipur has been reeling under indefinite blockade called by the UNC in protest against the creation of some new districts by the former Congress government.
On the other hand, outgoing Chief Minister and Congress Legislature Party leader Okram Ibobi Singh, who was present at the swearing-in ceremony along with the state Congress chief TN Haokip, said that they will take the role of a constructive opposition.
Union ministers Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal and Jitendra Singh, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Manipur�s titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba, former Manipur Chief Minister RB Koijam and others attended the swearing-in ceremony.
Former editor of vernacular newspaper Naharolgi Thoudang and a resident of Luwangsangbam Mamang Leikai in Imphal East district, Biren Singh was elected as an MLA from Heingang constituency for the first time in 2002 on a ticket from the regional Democratic Revolutionary People�s Party. The party merged with the Congress before the 2004 Assembly elections. In 2003, he was appointed as Minister of State for Vigilance. He later became Minister of Irrigation & Flood Control and Youth Affairs & Sports.
He retained his Assembly seat in both 2007 and 2012. However, his relationship with the then Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh fell apart after he was excluded from the Cabinet in 2012. The then vice-president of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, Biren Singh left the party and joined the BJP on October 17, 2016 and re-elected from Heingang seat in the recently concluded Assembly polls defeating his nearest Trinamool Congress candidate P Saratchandra.