Meghalaya Chief Minister and NPP national president Conrad K Sangma and Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma flew to Manipur capital on Sunday and held meetings with the four former ministers, whose resignation has plunged the Biren Singh government into trouble, in an apparent patch-up bid.
The opposition Congress questioned why the two leaders were not quarantined under COVID-19 norms like the two AICC observers when they arrived in Imphal on Friday.
Sangma and BJP leader Sarma first met Chief Minister N Biren Singh and then held talks with the Manipur National People’s Party legislators to iron out the differences, sources in the NPP and the BJP said.
Sangma is heading a government in Meghalaya with ally BJP whose two MLAs had also contributed in his party nominee’s victory in the Rajya Sabha poll.
Though it was not immediately known what decisions were taken during the meeting with the legislators, the sources said a strategy was discussed to save the BJP-led government of Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
Sarma also confirmed visiting Manipur for a day, but did not comment anything on the political crisis in the northeastern state. “I have come here to meet all our friends and to congratulate them on the massive victory in Rajya Sabha,” Sarma said over phone.
The move by Sangma and Sarma, who is also convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), is seen here as an effort to repair the cracks in the the BJP-led coalition in Manipur.
The Biren Singh ministry was put on a sticky wicket following the resignation of nine ruling coalition members, including four NPP ministers, on Wednesday.
Besides the NPP ministers, the rest five included three rebel BJP MLAs, the lone All Indian Trinamool Congress legislator and an Independent.
Meanwhile, Manipur Congress President Moirangthem Okendra, said while the two Congress observers — Ajay Maken and Gaurav Gogoi — were placed under quarantine as per Covid protocols on arrival at Imphal on Friday evening, Sangma and Sarma have been meeting people.
The Meghalaya CM and Sarma are putting up in a hotel which is near to the hotel where Maken and Gogoi are spending time in quarantine for the third day Sunday.
“This is highly condemnable…they (Sangma and Sarma) came and were meeting people freely while Congress leaders were guided to the hotel by the police from airport itself on June 19,” Okendra said.
“Maken and Gogoi were quarantined by the Manipur government. Are the norms valid only for Congress people? Is this your political revenge? Is law not equal for all?” Assam Congress spokesperson Apurba Kumar Bhattacharjee said in Guwahati.
Reacting to this, Sarma, who is leading the fight against the novel coronavirus is Assam, said no rule related to COVID-19 guidelines has been violated by him.
“A person who comes for a day-long visit is exempted from quarantine in both Assam and Manipur,” said Sarma. After the victory of the BJP candidate Leishemba Sanajaoba the party claimed taht it is in command in Manipur.
But without a final decision on the disqualification cases against the seven Congress MLAs who had crossed over to the BJP shortly after the 2017 state polls, proving majority on the floor of the 60-member house would be a difficult task for the ruling dispensation in the present condition when nine legislators have left them.
Their cases are pending under anti-defection law with the Manipur High Court as well with the Speaker’s Tribunal.
In the June 19 Rajya Sabha election, three Congress defectors — Ksh Biren Singh, S Bira Singh and Surchandra Singh — were not allowed to cast their votes as cases are pending against them. However, the other four defectors could vote.
The seven Congress legislators, who had crossed over to the BJP shortly after the 2017 state polls, have been facing anti-defection cases. Their disqualification matter is with the Manipur High Court as well as the Speaker’s Tribunal.
One recently disqualified MLA was also barred from taking part in the voting process.
Of the nine members who tendered resignation on Wednesday, BJP MLAs S Subhashchandra Singh, TT Haokip and Samuel Jendai could not cast their votes. Four NPP ministers, who had withdrawn their support from the ruling coalition, exercised their franchise.
The lone Trinamool Congress MLA T Robindro Singh, who also pulled out of the N Biren Singh-led dispensation, was not allowed to cast his vote. He lodged a complaint to the Election Commission in this regard.
Smelling a chance, the Congress had stepped up efforts to oust the BJP-led government by urging Governor Najma Heptullah on Thursday to call a special assembly session for taking up a no-confidence motion against Biren Singh ministry.
The four former NPP ministers, including deputy chief minister Y Joykumar Singh, had claimed that they were forced to walk out of the ruling dispensation due to bad treatment meted out to them by the government.
Manipur NPP chief Thangminlien Kipgen who met Sangma and Sarma issued a press release highlighting the reasons that prompted them to leave the BJP-led coalition.
He mentioned the refusal to form steering committee in order to bring a confidence amongst the coalition partners, lack of common minimum programme, allotment of ministerial portfolios and no invitation/consultation with the party to share views/ideas to decide on a consensus candidate of 2017 Rajya Sabha Election, 2019 Lok-Sabha Election and in the recently concluded Rajya- Sabha Election, 2020.
“This functioning of the present government is autocratic and undemocratic,” the state NPP chief said in the statement.