With the AICC observers and CLP members in Manipur unable to elect the new leader, the choice was left to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Spokesman N. Biren said the legislators agreed to accept the leader named by her.
Observers Luiziniho Felerio and Hemanta Biswas left for Delhi on Thursday, with a report on the political situation.
All 42 CLP members had assembled on Wednesday night at the Congress office for electing the new leader. Except for Lok Sabha MP M. Meinya no other person was allowed inside. The meeting could not agree on a consensus candidate since Yumkham Erabot, Commerce and Industries Minister and G. Gaikhangam, PCC president were also strong contenders and refused to back out. The attempt of the two observers to settle the issue failed.
Mr. Erabot, political detractor of Okram Ibobi, has been propped up by those CLP members who were denied Ministerial berths for the last 10 years. However the political wind has changed against Mr. Erabot as some of his staunch supporters did not win this time.
Consequently, the contest has narrowed down to Mr. Ibobi and Mr. Gaikhangam. Each of them is claiming credit for the landslide victory of the party in the January 28 elections. However some supporters of Mr. Ibobi said the entire credit should go to him. They are questioning the contribution of Mr. Gaikhangam pointing out that he could not go to his own constituency on two occasions to cast his vote.
However the argument of Mr. Gaikhangam is very simple. It has been a tradition in Manipur to have a non-tribal Manipuri Chief Minister and a tribal as the PCC president or vice versa. Mr. Ibobi who is a non-tribal has been the Chief Minister for the last 10 years without interruption. It is only fair for Mr. Gaikhangam to ask for a change of roles.
However for all practical purposes Mr. Ibobi is not taking public notice of the challenge from Mr. Gaikhangam and Mr. Erabot.
He has said the government would give special attention to the supply of water and power; hold talks with the extremists since violence cannot solve any problem; and seek to push a balanced development in the valley and hills for the emotional integration of the people.
In 2002 the Congress got 20 seats. The position improved in 2007 when it won 30 seats. This time political pundits speculated that the party would not secure even 10 seats. Seven extremist groups in the valley and one in the hills had continuously attacked the Congress candidates and their staunch supporters. The 60 Congress candidates could not move out without additional security personnel, hold public meetings or meet the voters even privately.
Reports suggested that the Prime Minister, other central Ministers, even the Congress president felt Manipur was a lost cause and their presence would not help the party. They did not come for electioneering. Mr. Ibobi could not campaign even with his Z-plus security and advised his supporters not to stick their necks out since the situation was terrible.
However, Congress patriarch Rishang Keishing (93) the oldest Rajya Sabha MP had told The Hindu that people, who were fed up with the extremist organisations, would express their resentment in the polls, favouring the Congress. His prediction has come true.