Manipur’s new Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s first love was football, which took him to the BSF. After resignation, he embraced journalism. Finally, he chose politics as a career.
As a young boy in Heingang, about 15 km from Imphal, he proved his mettle as a footballer and got recruited in the Border Security Force.
He resigned from the BSF to start a vernacular newspaper “Naharol gi Thoudang” although he had no formal training and experience in journalism.
The newspaper was a hit.
In April 2000, Biren Singh’s press was raided by police and he was charged with sedition for publishing — what authorities alleged — news supportive of extremists. He was arrested.
That’s when he decided he needed to change tracks.
“The inner call for serving the people more effectively was so strong that I gave up journalism that I had come to love so much,” recalled Biren Singh, who on Wednesday took oath as the Chief Minister.
He contested the assembly election in 2002 on a Democratic Revolutionary People’s Party ticket and was elected comfortably. Since then, there has been no looking back.
He joined the Congress in May 2003 and became a minister. He retained his assembly seat in subsequent elections.
Apart from holding important portfolios, he was also the Manipur government spokesperson. He came to be seen as a troubleshooter for Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.
However, he soon revolted against Ibobi Singh and was seen as one of the dissidents who engineered a campaign for his ouster. Ibobi Singh sacked Biren Singh last year.
Biren Singh then quit the assembly and the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on October 17, 2016.
The 56-year-old politician is widely admired for his friendly disposition and is popular, particularly among journalists.
Biren Singh admits he never dreamt of becoming the Chief Minister.
“People voted against corruption and excesses of all sorts in the 2017 assembly election,” he said after taking charge.
“These will be looked into as promised. The cases of 1,528 victims of fake encounters will be probed and the guilty punished.”
He brushed aside Congress claims that it should have got the first chance to form the new government since it is the single largest group in the new assembly.
“It is a numbers game in a democracy. We have physically shown to the Governor the support of 32 legislators in the 60-member assembly,” the new Chief Minister said.