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Imphal, June 23, 2020
As the week-long hectic political tussle continued in Manipur, in a new twist, all four MLAs of ruling BJP ally NPP, who withdrew their support to the saffron party-led government last week, were rushed to Delhi, ostensibly to crack the differences between the coalition partners, party sources said.
The four National People's Party (NPP) legislators left Imphal on Tuesday afternoon after three days of parleys between Meghalaya Chief Minister and NPP national President Conrad K. Sangma, Assam Minister and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, state BJP, NPP and other leaders.
Congress observers Ajay Maken and Gaurav Gogoi are also in Imphal to deal with the fast-changing political situation. Along with the four-member NPP, Trinamool Congress, which has one MLA, and an Independent candidate withdrew their support from the N. Biren Singh-led coalition government, while three BJP MLAs joined the Congress on June 17.
An NPP leader in Imphal said that Sarma, who was instrumental in the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government after the 2017 Assembly polls, went to Manipur on Sunday and Tuesday and held a series of meetings to resolve the differences.
"The four NPP MLAs in Delhi are likely to meet BJP's central leadership. We are extremely unhappy over the autocratic functioning of the Chief Minister (N. Biren Singh). We want his replacement," the NPP leader said on condition of anonymity.
The BJP is a constituent of the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) in Meghalaya.
NPP's Manipur state President Thangminlien Kipgen earlier in a statement said: "The BJP-led government in Manipur since 2017 has been running in an authoritarian manner. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and the BJP leadership never discussed with the leaders of the other parties and MLAs even as the five political parties formed the ruling alliance in Manipur after the 2017 Assembly polls."
BJP leaders in Imphal and Guwahati said that the central leaders would request the NPP legislators to come back to the alliance government. Talking to the media, Assam Minister and BJP's trouble-shooter Himanta Biswa Sarma said that everything would be resolved soon under the ambit and mission of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and NEDA.
In an another development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Congress stalwart and three-time former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh for questioning in an alleged Rs 332 crore misappropriation case.
A team of the CBI reached Imphal on Tuesday and it is likely to quiz the ex-Chief Minister on Wednesday. The case against the veteran Congress leader pertains to alleged fraudulent funds in the Manipur Development Society (MDS).
Apart from Ibobi Singh, there are other leaders and bureaucrats named by the CBI in the FIR. Ibobi Singh was, however, not available for comments, but a member of his family confirmed that the former Chief Minister has received the CBI summons.
"Ibobi Singh has also been granted an anticipatory bail by the Manipur High Court," a family member said, but no official confirmation has been received yet.
After a day-long high-voltage hectic political rivalry in which the Congress approached the Manipur High Court and met Governor Najma Heptulla for forming the government, on June 19 BJP candidate and Manipur's titular Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba won the Rajya Sabha poll, defeating Congress nominee Tongbram Mangibabu Singh by a margin of only four votes.
Out of the 52 valid votes cast, the BJP candidate managed 28 votes while the Congress aspirant got 24 votes. Assembly Speaker Yumnam Khemchand Singh played a key role on the Rajya Sabha polling day by letting four of the seven disgruntled Congress MLAs, who were facing disqualification, vote despite the Manipur High Court on June 18 ordering that all seven be "restrained" from entering the Assembly premises, where the RS polling was held.
The Speaker, meanwhile, disqualified the other three along with T. Robindro, the lone Trinamool MLA who had switched over to the Congress camp. The Congress had taken legal action against the seven MLAs for "defecting" to the BJP in 2017, soon after Biren Singh formed the BJP-led coalition government.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, Congress became the single largest party securing 28 seats, but the BJP, which managed 21 seats, stitched a coalition government with the support of four NPP members, four Naga People's Front MLAs, the lone TMC MLA and an Independent member.
The seven Congress MLAs had also subsequently joined the BJP. Demanding disqualification of the seven MLAs, the Congress in January this year had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which had asked the Speaker to take appropriate steps. The disqualification case under the anti-defection law is still pending in the Manipur High Court.