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Congress accuses BJP of abducting MLA as both jostle for power in Manipur

The Independent MLA is allegedly detained by the CISF at the Imphal airport

assembly elections Updated: Mar 12, 2017 22:23 IST
Utpal Parashar and Sobhapati Samom
Utpal Parashar and Sobhapati Samom
Hindustan Times, Imphal
Congress,BJP,Manipur assembly
BJP supporters in Imphal celebrate their party candidate’s win in assembly elections on Saturday. (PTI File Photo)

The Congress on Sunday accused the BJP of “abducting” an Independent legislator from the Imphal airport and taking him to an “unknown destination” amid power struggle in Manipur that elected a hung assembly.

Lone Independent MLA Ashab Uddin, who was coming to the state capital, was allegedly detained by CISF personnel at the airport.

“On behest of BJP, Independent candidate Ashab Uddin has been detained forcibly by CISF and flown to unknown destination (sic),” Congress general secretary CP Joshi tweeted.

There was, however, no clarity on what actually happened. Ahsab Uddin couldn’t be contacted as his phone was switched off. Senior BJP leaders too didn’t react to the allegation.

Formation of the next government in Manipur hung in balance as the Congress, the single largest party, and second-placed BJP jostled to get support from smaller players to reach the required numbers.

Throughout Sunday, a day after voters gave a hung verdict, Congress, which got 28 seats, three short of the required 31, and BJP, which secured 21, tried to woo National People’s Party (NPP), which has 4 MLAs.

“Voters have given a mandate against the Congress. Therefore other parties should respect the mandate and support a BJP-led government. We already have support of some and expect others to join soon,” said senior BJP leader Ram Madhav.

A meeting of newly elected BJP MLAs was held to discuss the party’s strategy. No decision has yet been taken on who would be made the legislature party leader or when it would stake claim to form a government.

The saffron party already has the support of four Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLAs and the lone Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) legislator, taking its tally to 26. But due to anti-NPF sentiments in the valley, the BJP is likely to take outside support from the party instead of including it in the government.

On the other hand, the Congress is also trying to gather support of “like-minded parties” to retain power.

Incumbent chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh was elected Congress legislature party leader. He is expected to meet governor Najma Heptullah on Monday to stake claim to form the government.

“It is a fractured mandate and it calls for formation of a coalition government. We will stake claim to form the government soon,” state Congress president TN Haokip told journalists.

The NPP, which is part of the NDA-government at the Centre and the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA)—an anti-Congress regional front---also held meetings, but is yet to make its stand clear.

Both the Congress and the BJP are also trying to get T Robindro Singh, the lone All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) MLA, into their fold, to boost their tally.

Key players in Manipur

NPF: The party, which is active in Naga-dominated hill areas of Manipur, bagged four seats and has already pledged support to any non-Congress coalition government in the state. The BJP is part of the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government in neighbouring Nagaland. It is also part of the BJP-led NEDA.

NPP: With four MLAs, the NPP, which has presence in Meghalaya and Rajasthan assemblies, holds key to which party would form the next government. Like NPF, the party is also a NEDA constituent. Its lone Lok Sabha MP Conrad Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, is part of the NDA government at the Centre. The BJP is hoping the existing connections would work in its favour, but the NPP is yet to make its stance clear.

LJP: Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, which is part of the NDA government in New Delhi, won one seat in Manipur. Paswan has made it clear that it will support a BJP government in the state.

Legislator Karam Shyam, a second term winner on LJP ticket, also confirmed the party’s decision.

AITC: From seven wins in the previous election, Mamata Banerjee’s party this time managed to secure just one seat—state president T Robindro Singh. It had fielded 16 candidates. Like the NPP, the party also remains undecided on its position. Both the Congress and the BJP are trying to bring Singh to their fold.

Independent-Ashab Uddin: The 51-year-old who won from Jiribam is the lone Independent MLA in the 60-member assembly. There is still no clarity on which party he would support.

First Published: Mar 12, 2017 18:49 IST