Amidst Covid-19 upsurge, frenzied political activity in Manipur

Imphal  While Manipur’s ruling BJP clinched the state’s lone Rajya Sabha seat on Friday even after three of its legislators joined the Congress and withdrawal of support by six other MLAs, the danger to Chief Minister N. Biren Singh-led coalition government was not yet over and hectic parleys are on amidst the Covid-19 milieu.

While the key opposition Congress claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had lost its majority, the BJP claimed the issue had been settled with the victory of its candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls.

Congress observers Ajay Maken and Gaurav Gogoi, Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) President Conrad K. Sangma, Assam Minister and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma held a series of meeting with their respective MLAs in Imphal on Sunday.

As Covid-19 protocols are in force, all the leaders are either in institutional quarantine or in hotels as the health authorities are not allowed them to move or hold meetings freely.

BJP’s national General Secretary Ram Madhav, Congress leaders Maken and Gogoi engaged in a series of tweets about the outcome of the RS polls and latters’ visit to Manipur.

Manipur Health and Family Welfare Department’s Additional Director and spokesman Khoirom Sasheekumar Mangang said as the leaders came from outside, they have to maintain the Covid-19 guidelines.

“The leaders can hold meetings if they desire so, but they have to take prior permission from the Health and Home departments before holding the meetings,” Mangang told IANS.

With the return of thousands of natives from other parts of the country, the state’s case tally climbed to 841 with 591 of them active cases.

Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei said that Sangma and NEDA convener Sarma are in Imphal but their presence would have no impact even if the Manipur Chief Minister is replaced.

“The only solution is Congress-led SPF (Secular Progressive Front) government in Manipur. Congress, along with other parties, has the numbers. In a democracy, the majority is always proved on the floor of the House. I strongly urge Manipur Governor to convene a special assembly session soon. Let there be a floor test. How can BJP-led minority government with 23 MLAs stay in power,” Meitei tweeted.

He said that after the disqualifications and resignations of the legislators, the present strength of the 60-member Assembly is 52.

NPP’s Manipur chief Thangminlien Kipgen 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 for the ruling alliance in Manipur after the 2017 assembly polls.”

The BJP is a constituent of the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) in Meghalaya.

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, BJP candidate and Manipur’s titular Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba won the Rajya Sabha poll, defeating the 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.

On June 17, the three-year-old BJP-led coalition government was pushed into a political crisis as three BJP MLAs quit the party and joined the Congress and six legislators – four of the NPP, one Trinamool Congress and an independent — withdrew support.

However, Assembly Speaker Yumnam Khemchand Singh played a key role on the Rajya Sabha polling day on June 19 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 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 Trinamool 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. (IANS)