The 2022 Vidhan Sabha Elections saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win four out of the five states. The BJP managed to win handsomely in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Manipur while it will form a coalition government in Goa. While all eyes were on the historic achievements of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the achievements in Manipur cannot be ignored. For the first time in the history of Manipur, the BJP managed to emerge as the single-largest party, winning 32 out of the 60 seats to secure a clear majority.
The prime factor behind the success in Manipur was Nongthombam Biren Singh or N Biren Singh. Already, N Biren Singh has created history for multiple reasons. Not many people know about this, but he is actually the first Chief Minister of a state who was a sportsman. Yes, N Biren Singh in his youth was one of the best footballers that Manipur ever produced. Such was his popularity that he created waves in the 1980s in India.
The year was 1981. At that time, N Biren Singh was one of the stars in Manipur when it came to football. At the young age of 18, he was already making waves playing for the Border Security Force (BSF) side. But, Manipur in the 1980s was cut off from the rest of the country due to the insurgency and lack of communication. It was at this time that N Biren Singh made his mark for his state, much before the likes of MC Mary Kom put the state on the map.
His crowning glory came in the 1981 Durand Cup. Playing Jagajit Cotton and Textile Football Club or JCT FC from Punjab in the final, Biren Singh was the star as he scored the goal to help them win the Durand Cup. When he became the Chief Minister, there were photos shared on social media by other BJP Ministers of a young Biren Singh meeting the then President of India Neelam Sanjiva Reddy. That photo was taken before the final at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi.
N. Biren Singh, National Football Player belonging to BSF Team introduced to the President of India Shri Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy during Durand Cup Final at Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi in 1981. BSF beat JCT 1-0. Now, he is the Chief Minister of Manipur @NBirenSingh ji @KirenRijiju pic.twitter.com/w9QXry4gRL— Megh Goyal Kanha 🇮🇳 (@meghgoyal_BJYM) October 7, 2019
About 30 years later, N Biren Singh showed that he had not lost his football touch. During a match between the Chief Minister’s 11 and the Chief Secretary’s 11 played at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal in December 2020, Biren Singh scored a goal that went viral on social media. Many people compared the goal and his style to Zinedine Zidane.
N Biren Singh was born on January 1, 1961, in Imphal. At a young age, he showed interest in football. He was included in the BSF team which went on to create history. After playing football for 10 years, N Biren Singh became a journalist. He started the vernacular daily Naharolgi Thoudang in 1992 and was the editor till 2001. After that stint with journalism, Biren Singh joined the Congress in 2003. He was one of the close aides of former CM Okram Ibobi Singh.
From the very beginning, Biren Singh had Heingang as his constituency. After spending 13 years in the Congress, a revolt within the party saw him join the BJP. In 2017, he became the first-ever BJP CM of Manipur. His first stint with the coalition government was tumultuous. But, in 2022, N Biren Singh won his constituency and the state by a comfortable margin.
Manipur’s identity has now been dubbed by PM Narendra Modi for skills, start-ups and sports. Biren Singh might fit the bill perfectly. Just like his football days, he might create history.