Congress stakes claim to form government in Manipur

Imphal, June 18 (IANS) Amid political turmoil, the opposition Congress on Thursday staked claim to form the government in Manipur and urged the Governor to convene a special session of the Assembly. In a separate move, 12 MLAs of the Congress and other parties demanded the removal of the Assembly Speaker.
“A delegation comprising leaders of the Congress and other parties met Governor Najma Heptulla and demanded to convene a special session of the state Assembly to move a no confidence motion against the BJP government headed by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh,” Congress leader Chalton Amo told the media after meeting the Governor.
He added: “We have told the Governor that the Congress, in alliance with the other parties and Independents, is now capable of forming a secular government headed by three-time former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. We have handed over a letter signed by Okram Ibobi Singh to the Governor.”
In the letter, which has been accessed by IANS, Okram Ibobi Singh, who is currently the Congress legislature party leader, told the Governor that the party would form a Secular Progressive Front government with like-minded parties and MLAs.
Led by K. Meghachandra Singh, 12 MLAs have also sent a notice to Manipur Assembly secretary demanding the removal of the Speaker under Article 179 (c) of the Constitution of India.
“This notice would further strengthen the formation of the new Congress-led coalition government in Manipur,” Ningombam Bupenda Meitei, Congress spokesperson in Manipur, told IANS.
The northeastern state suddenly plunged into a political crisis on Wednesday night after three BJP MLAs defected to the Congress, while four ministers of the National People’s Party (NPP), the lone Trinamool Congress (TMC) member T. Robindro Singh, and Shahabuddin, an Independent MLA from Jiribam of the saffron party-led ruling alliance, withdrew their support.
BJP’s Manipur in-charge Prahlad Singh Patel said that no action has been taken against the three MLAs as of now and the party leadership is monitoring the situation. Political sources said the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and other parties’ MLAs are kept in different hotels and lodges to prevent them from jumping ship to the opposite side.
Led by Deputy Chief Minister Y. Joykumar, the four MLAs, all cabinet ministers, belonging to the NPP, are on a political tussle for several months with Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.
The NPP, which has a base in most of the northeastern states and is recognised as a national party by the Election Commission, is headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma.
The BJP MLAs who resigned from the party and joined the Congress are S. Subhashchandra Singh, T.T. Haokip and Samuel Jendai.
Besides Deputy Chief Minister Y. JoyKumar Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, the other three ministers who resigned on Wednesday night are Health and Family Welfare Minister L. Jayanta Kumar Singh, Tribal and Hills Area Development Minister N. Kayishii, and Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Letpao Haokip.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, Congress became the single largest party securing 28 seats, but the BJP, which managed 21 seats, stitched a collation government with the support of four NPP members, four Naga People’s Front MLAs, the lone TMC MLA and an Independent member. Seven Congress MLAs had also 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 Assembly Speaker to take appropriate steps on the seven legislators.
However, the assembly Speaker, Y. Khemchand Singh, is yet to take any step against the seven MLAs. Instead, he annulled the membership of Shyamkumar Singh from Andro Assembly constituency, who had also defected to the BJP from the Congress.
After the disqualification of Shyamkumar Singh, the effective strength of the 60-member House now stands at 59.
Meanwhile, the Manipur High Court had on June 8 ordered restraining seven Congress MLAs, who in 2017 joined the BJP, from entering the state Assembly till the Speaker’s tribunal heard their disqualification case.
Amid the political turmoil, the elections for the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Manipur will be held on Friday.

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