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Congress stakes claim to form government in Manipur

Former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh   | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

The Congress in Manipur has staked claim to form the Secular Progressive Front (SPF) government after a special session of the 60-member Assembly for a no-confidence motion against the Ministry led by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren.

Nine MLAs, including three of the Bharatiya Janata Party, had on Wednesday night withdrawn support to Mr Biren and reduced the BJP-led government to a minority.

A team of Congress, National People’s Party (NPP) and Trinamool Congress MLAs led by former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh met Governor Najma Heptulla on Thursday afternoon seeking the replacement of the BJP-led coalition.

Mr Singh pointed out that the Congress has 20 MLAs with seven of its lawmakers barred from entering the House by the High Court of Manipur while the strength of the BJP is 18 after the resignation of three of its MLAs, reducing the effective strength of the House to 49 with another Congress MLA – former Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar – having been disqualified earlier for defecting to the BJP.

The present Ministry has 23 MLAs with four from the Naga People’s Front and one of Lok Janshakti Party compared to 26 of the Congress with the support of four NPP, a Trinamool Congress and an Independent MLA, he added.

 

“In the event of the Speaker’s Tribunal ruling in favour of the seven Congress MLAs (against whom the Congress had sought legal action for supporting the BJP), the effective strength of the House rises to 56 and the SPF will command 33 MLAs while the BJP will have 23,” Mr Singh said, justifying the no-confidence vote against the Biren Ministry.

‘Remove Speaker’

Earlier on Thursday, Congress MLA K. Meghachandra submitted a notice to Manipur Legislative Assembly Secretary citing relevant rules for the removal of Speaker Yumnam Khemchand. The notice was supported by 10 other MLAs, including those of the NPP.

Mr. Meghachandra cited Article 179 (C) of the Constitution of India in the notice to make the Speaker powerless in disqualifying MLAs because of the vote for removal pending against him. The notice, the Congress said, was primarily to pre-empt the Speaker from taking action against its seven “rebel” MLAs barred by the court from entering the Assembly.

“This motion for removal... is necessitated for the reason that the Speaker has conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of the position held by him and his actions are not only unconstitutional but also illegal,” Mr. Meghachandra wrote.

The Speaker was to have taken a decision regarding the disqualification of the seven MLAs on June 22. But the matter was advanced to June 18 after the political drama on Wednesday night, Mr Meghachandra said in the notice.

Rajya Sabha polls

The political upheaval has put the spotlight on the election for Manipur’s lone Rajya Sabha seat on Friday. “We are confident of winning the election because the numbers are with us,” Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei said.

While the BJP had fielded Manipur’s titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba to the disappointment of social organisations who think he should be apolitical, the Congress has fielded veteran T. Mangibabu for the Rajya Sabha seat.

BJP lawmakers’ grouse

The three BJP lawmakers who joined the Congress after resigning from the House said they had been demoralised by Mr Biren’s style of functioning.

One of them, L. Jayentakumar said: “Many Ministers were not taken into confidence by the Chief Minister. I was not allowed to enter the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (in Imphal) despite being the Health Minister. Nor was I allowed to enter Kangla Fort (Imphal’s historical centrepiece) as the Arts and Culture Minister.”

What was transpiring now was a “reaction to the CM’s actions and nobody else should be blamed”, he added.

The MLAs of both the BJP and Congress have reportedly been herded together in “safe houses” in order to prevent them from being poached.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 7:09:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/congress-stakes-claim-to-form-government-in-manipur/article31861128.ece

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