Manipur awaits floor test of ‘manufactured majority’

A Congress MLA sworn in as minister in Manipur. An independent MLA detained by the CISF. Neither BJP nor its Governors seem to have taken Supreme Court’s orders on Arunachal and Uttarakhand seriously



PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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NH Political Bureau

It was a dramatic Sunday at Imphal on March 12. Results of the assembly election had been declared the previous evening on Saturday, with Congress securing 28 and the BJP 21 seats in the 60-member Assembly.


By 2.30 pm, the elected members of the Congress, joined by the lone AITC MLA, elected Okram Ibobi Singh, the outgoing chief minister, as their leader. Over the phone, an Independent MLA elected from a constituency bordering Assam also pledged his support to Ibobi Singh.


But there was high drama when a plane with the Independent MLA landed at Imphal. As many as 150 CISF Jawans detained the elected MLA, not allowing him to go out of the airport. They were working under instructions, they said. And a few hours later the elected MLA was bundled into a Guwahati-bound flight and sent back to Assam.


It was hardly a coincidence that BJP’s ‘strongman’ in the North East Himanta Biswa Sarma and BJP’s ‘man of all seasons’ Ram Madhav were camping at Imphal to install a BJP Government in the state.


The convention in India is for the state party presidents to write to the Governor furnishing lists of elected MLAs and for the elected leader of the single largest party or coalition to call on the Governor with the letter and stake his claim to form the Government.


But BJP had not yet elected a leader. Yet Ram Madhav, the BJP general secretary, hurriedly addressed a press conference at 7.30 pm and declared that BJP had decided to stake its claim to form the Government. He then rushed off to the Raj Bhavan to convey the decision to the Governor.

Over the phone, an Independent MLA elected from a constituency bordering Assam also pledged his support to Ibobi Singh. But there was high drama when a plane with the Independent MLA landed at Imphal. As many as 150 CISF Jawans detained the elected MLA, not allowing him to go out of the airport. They were working under instructions, they said. And a few hours later the elected MLA was bundled into a Guwahati-bound flight and sent back to Assam.

The Governor, Najma Heptulla, later claimed that the BJP had the support of 32 MLAs, including a Congress MLA who was present at the Sunday afternoon meeting in which Ibobi Singh was elected and also the Independent MLA who had not been allowed to emerge from the airport by the CISF! Should the Governor have given audience to Ram Madhav, who had no locus standi, or even taken his claim at face value?


Even more significantly, the BJP had no pre-poll alliance with either the National People’s Party or the Naga People’s Front. The parties had just fought a bitter election, with BJP leaders declaring at election rallies that they would under no circumstance compromise with either NPP or the NPF.


Should the Governor then have given credence to the claim put forward by Ram Madhav that the eight elected MLAs of the NPP and NPF had pledged their support to the BJP?


Curiously, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party Ibobi Singh had called on the Governor at 10 pm on Sunday and had staked his claim to form the Government. Not only was the Congress the single largest party, but it also had the support of the Independent MLA and the MLA from the AITC.

The Governor, Najma Heptulla, later claimed that the BJP had the support of 32 MLAs, including a Congress MLA who was present at the Sunday afternoon meeting in which Ibobi Singh was elected and also the Independent MLA who had not been allowed to emerge from the airport by the CISF! Should the Governor have given audience to Ram Madhav, who had no locus standi, or even taken his claim at face value?

Normally the Governor should have invited the leader of the single largest party to form the Government and ordered a floor-test in the Assembly to prove his majority. But the Governor addressed the media the next afternoon and declared her intention to invite the BJP to form the Government.


Even more glaring has been the act of BJP’s designated chief minister N Biren Singh, who wrote to the Governor to advise that a Congress MLA, Shyamkumar, be administered the oath of office as minister! And the Governor went ahead and did it.


The Constitution under the 10th Schedule lays down the procedures for disqualifying a member for defection. It is for the Speaker to do so. But how did the Governor decide, first that there has been a defection and then sanctify it by administering the oath of office to him?


The Manipur Governor once again did not immediately order a floor test and fixed the date. She was perhaps waiting for orders from New Delhi. “It is unfortunate that the Centre and the Governor colluded to manufacture a majority for the BJP in Manipur,” said CP Joshi, the Congress General Secretary in-charge of Manipur. Instead of playing the Referee, he added, both the Centre and the Governor became a party, he added.

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