Tense stand-off between BJP, Congress in Manipur
Congress watching situation ahead of court verdict in plea seeking disqualification of 12 MLAS
With the departure of AICC Manipur in-charge Bhakta Charan Das on Tuesday, there seems to be an undeclared ceasefire between the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress.
The Congress high command on July 21 asked Mr. Das to rush to Manipur in the wake of the resignation of MPCC president Govindas Konthoujam. Initially, Mr. Das had planned to stay in Imphal for two days anticipating an early solution to the political impasse.
However, his stay was extended to a week since the verdict in a petition seeking disqualification of 12 MLAs who were sworn in as Parliamentary secretaries on March 23, 2017, was expected on July 26.
The Congress circles felt that the Supreme Court would order the disqualification of the 12 MLAs. Two of them had been inducted in the coalition ministry, while one was made the Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Das had said, “In case of disqualification, we will stake claim for the formation of an alternative ministry”.
CLP leader Okram Ibobi and other national and State leaders still maintain that the party should have been given a chance to form the alternative ministry since in the March 2017 Assembly election the Congress bagged 28 seats, while the BJP got 27.
Mr. Ibobi says that he had given a list of supporters to the Governor. Governor Najma Heptulla had invited BJP leader N. Biren to form the government.
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Some senior Congress leaders said that the party will look before leaping to avoid death traps. In case of a political crisis, the Centre may promulgate President’s rule, since the party will never be allowed to form the alternative government. During the interregnum, some burning issues including the framework agreement with the Naga bodies may be finally signed and the Congress would be blamed. All sections of people in Manipur have been opposing any agreement that will compromise the territory and interests of Manipur.
Mr. Das could not lure back Mr. Konthoujam, who resigned citing personal problems, went to an undisclosed place and never came to the MPCC office to hold talks.
Reports indicate that two MLAs who may defect to another party were also elsewhere. Having no option, the Congress high command appointed Congress vice-president N. Loken as the MPCC interim president till an alternative arrangement was made.
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While waiting for the Supreme Court verdict, Mr. Das continued to talk to the various Congress committees. Sources said that this was to plan an election strategy since Manipur goes to the polls in March 2022.
Mr. Das said that the Congress will form an alternative ministry after the next elections. The State Congress leaders are not happy that T. Shyamkumar, who was elected on Congress ticket, was made a Cabinet Minister even before being sworn in as a member of the Assembly. Later, he was disqualified.
To counteract the Congress offensive, Mr. Biren told a few MLAs on July 21 that “six MLAs will join the BJP”. Political circles did not rubbish it as an empty claim since at least three Congress MLAs refused to meet Mr. Das.
Mr. Das may come to Manipur again ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday.
Mr. Biren contends that only the Governor has to execute an order for disqualification. The process is rather long.