IMPHAL, March 14 2017: Competing claims by BJP and Congress have pushed government formation in Manipur towards a tense climax in which the governor and small regional parties will hold the key.
Former footballer and journalist Nongthombam Biren Singh is BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, elected to lead the 21-member BJP legislature party, Singh staked claim to form the government at the head of a motley coalition after outgoing Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh resigned on Monday.
Biren has submitted to governor Najma Heptullah a list of 32 MLAs—Manipur has a 60-member assembly-—and letters of support from P A Sangma’s party NPP (4 MLAs), NPF (4), LJP (1), independent Ashab Uddin and T Robindro Singh, who won on a Trinamool ticket.
However, Congress, as the single largest party, is also in the race with 28 legislators.
Outgoing Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh who submitted his resignation on Monday, has urged governor Najma Heptullah to accept his claim to head the next government in Manipur on the basis of a letter of support from the 4-member NPP.
“I met governor on Sunday night. We have submitted the letter of support given by NPP. As per democratic tradition, the single largest party should be first given the chance to form government,” he said.
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When asked about NPP pledging its support to BJP too, MPCC president TN Haokip said, “Our deal with NPP still stands.” Ibobi said the governor told them that in case there was a requirement to parade NPP MLAs, she would ask him.
27 Congress MLAs are now camping at the residence of party MLA N Loken Singh in Imphal. While one MLA appears to have shifted loyalty to the BJP camp, the CM said the party still has support from 28 MLAs. The lone dissenting MLA runs the risk of disqualification under the anti-defection law if he switches sides.
Earlier, the governor told ANI that she had asked Ibobi to put in his papers so that the government formation process could be started and that Ibobi should bring NPP legislators to the Raj Bhavan in person.
AICC general secretary CP Joshi said going by a Supreme Court ruling and democratic traditions, in case of a hung assembly, the single largest party should be invited to form government first.
Meanwhile, BJP central observers, power minister Piyush Goyal and HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, met with the 21 elected BJP members.
Goyal said Nongthombam Biren Singh Biren was elected unanimously as legislative leader after consultations with elected MLAs and a discussion with party president Amit Shah, who was tasked with selecting the new leader by BJP’s parliamentary board. Goyal said the BJP would form the government and Biren would be the new CM.
Thanking Prime Minister Modi and party president Amit Shah, Biren said it would be a great challenge for him to lead the party in Manipur. “I left Congress because of misgovernance. BJP has to give good governance to people with the help of Modiji. This mandate is for change,” he added.
Congress received around 35% of the votes in the state elections, while BJP dramatically raised its share to 36.3% this time. BJP, which won 21 seats against zero in 2012, now claims the support of 11 more MLAs to form the government — it’s third in the northeast.
(Source: Times of India)