Congress attempts to topple BJP-led govt Manipur; NPP to offer support

Updated on Jun 18, 2020 05:19 PM IST

The three-year-old coalition government is tottering after three BJP MLAs, all four from the National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs, including three cabinet ministers, the lone Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker and an independent MLA withdrew support over alleged resentment to the N Biren Singh-led government’s handling of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak and growing interference in the functioning of non-BJP ministers.

Earlier in April, CM Biren Singh had divested Joykumar of all his portfolios after the later termed the former’s assurances of food security during the Covid-19-induced lockdown as “hogwash”.(Vipin Kumar/HT file photo)
Earlier in April, CM Biren Singh had divested Joykumar of all his portfolios after the later termed the former’s assurances of food security during the Covid-19-induced lockdown as “hogwash”.(Vipin Kumar/HT file photo)
Hindustan Times, Guwahati | By

Opposition Congress is making a desperate bid to topple Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and form a non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government in the politically-volatile state after nine members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), including three from the BJP, withdrew support to the BJP-led coalition government on Wednesday evening.

The three-year-old coalition government is tottering after three BJP MLAs, all four from the National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs, including three cabinet ministers, the lone Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker and an independent MLA withdrew support over alleged resentment to the N Biren Singh-led government’s handling of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak and growing interference in the functioning of non-BJP ministers.

“We’re going to have a new coalition government led by the Congress with support from like-minded parties. The true mandate had been given to the Congress and our dream is coming true,” Manipur Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei tweeted.

The NPP, which is heading the government in Meghalaya with the ally BJP’s support, has decided to join hands with the Congress and form the next government in Manipur, as political loyalties often get blurred in the north-eastern states because of regional compulsions.

The TMC and independent MLAs have also decided to side with the Congress.

The three BJP MLAs, who resigned on Wednesday, have officially joined the Congress, but they can’t take part in a no-confidence vote in the 60-member assembly, as they would now come under the purview of anti-defection law, or the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution.

“We’ll go with the formation of the Congress-led government. We’re most likely to meet Governor Najma Heptullah on Thursday to call for a no-confidence motion against the incumbent government and seek a floor-test in the assembly,” said Y Joykumar Singh, NPP leader, and former deputy CM.

“The government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak and interference in ministries handled by our party’s ministers are some of the reasons that led us to withdraw support to the government,” he added.

Earlier in April, CM Singh had divested Joykumar of all his portfolios after the later termed the former’s assurances of food security during the Covid-19-induced lockdown as “hogwash”.

The political crisis deepened after Manipur high court (HC) on June 9 restrained seven Congress MLAs, who had switched sides to the ruling BJP, from entering the assembly until Speaker Yumnam Khemchand Singh disposed of the pending anti-defection cases against them.

The HC ruling had cast doubts on these MLAs from voting for the lone Rajya Sabha (RS) seat from the state, which is slated to be held on Friday.

In March, the Supreme Court had ordered the removal of TH Shyamkumar as a minister. Shyamkumar had won on a Congress ticket, but switched sides immediately after results were declared and became a minister in the BJP-led government.

The first BJP government in Manipur had come to power in March 2017 after it cobbled together a majority. The party had won 21 of the 60 seats in the state, while the Congress had won 28 seats.

But, the BJP formed the government with the support of four MLAs each from the NPP and the Naga People’s Front (NPF), one legislator each from the TMC, and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and an independent MLA.

Like Shyamkumar, seven other MLAs had later switched sides to the BJP.

Now, the BJP is reduced to 18 MLAs in the state assembly after three of its lawmakers resigned, the eight Congress MLAs, who had switched sides to the BJP but are not allowed to enter the assembly, and six others, including four from the NPP and one each from the TMC and the independent, withdrawing support.

The N Biren Singh-led coalition had the support of 39 lawmakers.

Now, it has been reduced to 23, including 18 from the BJP, four from NPF, and one from the LJP.

While the Congress, which had got reduced to 20 MLAs after eight of its lawmakers switched sides, enjoys the support of 26 lawmakers, including four from NPP and one each from the TMC and the independent.

The BJP, however, is putting up a brave front, despite the loss of three of its lawmakers on Wednesday.

“Though three of our MLAs have left, there’s still no threat to the coalition government. We have a strategy in place and are working on it,” said S Rajen, BJP MLA and government spokesperson.

“We’re hopeful that the assembly Speaker gives a ruling on Thursday on allowing the seven MLAs (the Congress lawmakers, who had switched sides and were barred to enter the assembly) to enter the House and vote. If that happens, we will win the Rajya Sabha election on Friday and will sail through a floor test, if it takes place. We’re also hopeful of some Congress MLAs crossing over to our side,” he added.

Amid the political drama, the NPF has decided to stick with its old ally, the BJP, and support it for the lone RS seat on Friday as well as in a floor test.

“The NPF has had an alliance with The BJP for long. We supported the BJP in forming government in Manipur, when it didn’t have the numbers and we’ll continue doing that. We don’t abandon our friends or break our ties, despite BJP not honouring agreements in the past,” said K Leishiyo, NPF MLA from Phungyar.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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