Beleaguered Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh was stopped by his supporters from resigning on Friday, amid high drama in Imphal.
Mr. Singh was scheduled to meet Governor Anusuiya Uikye at the Raj Bhavan, barely 200 metres from his official residence, to tender his resignation at 1 p.m. The appointment was rescheduled to 3 p.m.
The CM came out of his residence around 2:20 p.m., in a convoy of vehicles along with some 20 MLAs, including Ministers, but hundreds of women blocked his path to the Raj Bhavan by forming a human chain on the road. He returned to his residence after they asked him not to resign and chanted slogans in his support.
A group of Ministers emerged from the CM’s residence after some time and one of them read out Mr. Singh’s resignation letter before handing it to some women, who tore it up.
‘Not told to quit’
The BJP later announced that Mr. Singh had decided against quitting, in order to honour the sentiments of the people and civil society organisations. Leaders of the Congress and other political parties termed it a chair-saving drama.
Neither Home Minister Amit Shah nor the central BJP leadership had instructed the Chief Minister to step down, an associate of Mr. Singh told The Hindu. Mr. Shah had spoken with Mr. Singh thrice on Friday to take stock of the law-and-order situation.
Mr. Singh is believed to have made up his mind to quit after abuses were hurled at him during a protest in Imphal on Thursday night. The protestors expressed their anger after the bodies of two Meitei men, killed earlier in the day in a gunfight with security forces in the hill district of Kangpokpi, were brought to the centre of the State capital.
“The mob has become leaderless. They do not want to give peace a chance. The CM decided to resign to send a message that he may be replaced with any other leader who would be able to set things in order. What option did he have when his own people stopped believing in him?” the associate said, declining to be quoted.
While a section of the people in the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley are rallying behind Mr. Singh, the Kuki community in the hills — including seven BJP legislators — have been demanding his resignation, as well as a separate tribal administration.
“Hopefully, there will be sincere efforts to restore peace from now on,” the associate said.
Pressure to quit
Since the Kuki-Meitei clashes erupted on May 3, at least 130 people have been killed and more than 60,000 displaced.
Since Friday morning, speculation was rife in Manipur that Mr. Singh would resign, as he had failed to contain the violence despite the deployment of 35,000 Army and central paramilitary personnel in the State.
BJP insiders said that Mr. Singh had reached out to some of his Ministers and MLAs on Thursday night to gain their confidence. The pressure was reportedly mounting on him from within the party to make way for someone “more capable”.
A few days ago, Union Minister R.K. Ranjan Singh took a swipe at the Chief Minister by saying the State government had “completely” failed to maintain law and order, after his house was torched by a mob.
‘No to President’s Rule’
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an influential apex body of civil society organisations of the Meitei community, opposed the possible imposition of President’s Rule in the violence-hit State.
The COCOMI had earlier written to Mr Shah complaining against the “passiveness” and “biased actions” of the central paramilitary forces deployed in Manipur. In a letter to the Chief Minister, the COCOMI said that President’s Rule in the State would not be accepted.
“People of Manipur do not accept any form of anti-democratic policy. All issues and problems we are facing today must be resolved under the responsibility of the popular elected government,” the organisation said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of licensed women vendors and a large number of street vendors went on a four-day strike from Friday morning. They are protesting against the uncertain situation in Manipur following the communal clashes. No vendors and wholesalers were seen in Imphal on Friday. All shops and business centres in and around the city remained closed.