Imphal, Mar 13 (PTI) N Biren Singh was today elected unanimously as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party in Manipur and met Governor Najma Heptulla to stake claim to form the next government.

Incumbent Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh had already staked claim last night.

Sources said Biren met the governor at the Raj Bhavan.

“N Biren Singh has been unanimously elected leader of the BJP Legislature Party. He is the party’s chief ministerial candidate,” Union minister Piyush Goel told reporters.

Goel said they enjoyed the support of smaller parties.

The Governor, however, stuck to what he had told Ibobi Singh last night that he would have to resign first to pave the way for a government formation.

“I have not received till today any resignation from the chief minister though I told him yesterday I can start the process of government formation only after you resign,” Heptulla said.

As per rules, until the present chief minister resigns, the process of next government formation cannot be started, a highly-placed Raj Bhavan source said.

In his meeting with Heptulla last night, Ibobi had flaunted a list of 28 Congress legislators. He also claimed to have the support of four National People’s Party MLAs. Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam and state Congress president T N Haokip had accompanied him to the Raj Bhavan.

The Raj Bhavan source said, “On seeing the names of the four NPP MLAs on an ordinary piece of paper, Heptullah asked Ibobi to bring the NPP president and the MLAs.” The Governor said it was her duty to cross check claims and counter-claims and that she would not accept an ordinary piece of paper as the “letter of support” unless she meets the NPP MLAs, the source said.

Ibobi told reporters that he would resign by tomorrow to facilitate the process of government formation.

He, however, argued that with the Congress emerging as the single largest party, he should be given the first opportunity to form the government.

“I am ready for a floor test and I have the numbers with me,” said Singh.

The BJP leadership with their 21 MLAs had met the Governor yesterday along with NPP president and the four MLAS of his party and the lone LJP and TMC MLAs, besides one of the Congress.

The BJP has claimed it enjoyed the support of 32 MLAs in the 60-member assembly.

They also submitted a letter from the Naga People’s Front (NPF) president pledging their support to the BJP to form the government, the source said.

The Congress has won 28 seats in Manipur while the BJP has secured 21. The NPP and the NPF have won four seats each, with the LJP and the Trinamool Congress bagging one seat each.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.