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Manipur government on sticky wicket after 3 BJP MLAs resign, NPP withdraws support

Apart from the NPP, those who withdrew support are one Trinamool MLA and an Independent MLA from Jiribam.

The MLAs at a press conference in Manipur. (Express photo)

Former Congress chief minister of Manipur and CLP leader Okram Ibobi Singh will approach Governor Najma Heptullah to call a special Assembly session to floor a no-confidence motion against the N Biren Singh-led BJP government.

This comes soon after three BJP MLAs resigned from the Assembly and party membership to join the Congress.

One of the BJP’s main allies, the National People’s Party (NPP), withdrew its support and pledged support to the Congress. The NPP’s four MLAs are all cabinet ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar Singh.

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The Biren Singh government was formed after the 2017 Assembly election, with the BJP winning only 21 seats in the 60-member Assembly. The Congress was the single largest party with 28 seats. Immediately after the election, one Congress MLA defected to the BJP. A TMC MLA, along with the four NPP MLAs and four MLAs of Naga People’s Front (a BJP ally in Nagaland), helped prop up the BJP’s first government in the Northeast.

On Wednesday, apart from the three BJP MLAs and NPP, the TMC MLA and an independent MLA from Jiribam withdrew support. The Manipur Assembly has a current strength of 59 MLAs after Shyamkumar Singh of Andro constituency, who had defected to BJP from Congress, was disqualified.

The three BJP MLAs who resigned are T T Haokip, S Subaschandra Singh and Samuel Jendai. Haokip, speaking at a press conference in Imphal flanked by the two others, said, “I tendered my resignation on my own volition.” When asked why they took the decision, Haokip declined to comment further.

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Trouble had been brewing for Biren Singh, with several attempts to dethrone him from within the party. This was resolved after the intervention of central BJP leaders. But on April 9, the CM divested the Deputy CM of all his portfolios, including environment, forest and climate change, and transferred them to himself.

Y Joykumar told The Indian Express, “The CM had promised 5 kg rice to everyone and assured there would be no shortage during lockdown, but that was not the case. I raised the matter… Soon after, he took away my portfolios. BJP members had called for our resignation from the government. More recently, Biren told us that after the Rajya Sabha election all NPP ministers would be dropped from the cabinet. The BJP keeps attacking its own allies. How could we accept this behaviour?”

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Incidentally, Joykumar was DG Police of Manipur during Ibobi’s tenure and has a close working relationship with the former CM. Meanwhile, Ibobi claimed the Congress now has the support of 30 MLAs, including 20 of its own. Apart from one Congress MLA who had defected right after the election, seven others had pledged support to the Biren government while remaining Congress MLAS.

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“In the Assembly, officially they tell us they are Congress MLAs. The matter is in court – either they will be disqualified, or they are Congress MLAs. In any case, they are not BJP MLAs,” Ibobi told The Indian Express. He added that with their new support, the Congress could now stake claim to form the government.

With three MLAs leaving, the BJP’s number is down to 19. They have the support of an LJP MLA and four NPF MLAs.

“There is no problem in calling a special Assembly session while maintaining social distancing because we had constructed a 100-seat Assembly in our tenure, and there are 52 MLAs (barring the seven who are not allowed to enter the Assembly while awaiting verdict) who can actually vote. If the BJP is confident of their numbers, we don’t have a problem. But let them prove it,” said Ibobi.

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When contacted, a senior BJP leader said, “There is some difficulty as far as numbers are concerned, but we don’t feel there is a threat.” Manipur BJP vice-president Asnikumar Moirangthem declined to comment.

First published on: 17-06-2020 at 08:06:50 pm
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