Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh attends the video conference meeting of chief ministers of 21 States and union territories with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Imphal on 16 June 2020 (representational image) | ANI
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New Delhi: In a rapidly changing political development, the Congress Thursday gave a notice to the secretary of the Manipur assembly for the removal of the Speaker for allegedly misusing his authority.

This came after Speaker Y. Khemchand advanced the date of proceedings regarding the disqualification of the seven Congress MLAs, who had earlier crossed over to the BJP, to 18 June from 22 June “without any reason”. 

The Speaker’s decision holds the key to the survival of the Biren Singh government in the state, which is in a crisis after nine ruling coalition members, including four ministers, resigned Wednesday.

“The Speaker has lost the sanctity of his post. He is protecting Congress MLAs who are supporting the BJP government,” Congress MLA K. Meghachandra, who served the notice for the removal of the Speaker, told ThePrint.

“Earlier, he fixed 22 June as the date of hearing of the disqualification, but Wednesday night, he changed the date of hearing to 18 June without any reason. This is blatant misuse of authority by the speaker. He is behaving like a BJP MLA and not as a Speaker,” he added.

A state BJP leader, who didn’t want to be named, however, told ThePrint the Speaker will conduct the proceedings regarding disqualification of the Congress MLAs on 22 June. 

The notice, which has been supported by National People’s Party (NPP) MLA Y. Joykumar Singh, mentioned that the Speaker’s conduct is not just unconstitutional, but illegal too.

“…. Speaker himself has conducted in authoritarian manner, which is opposed to the well-established practice set by the assembly. Hence, please accept this notice for removal of the speaker of the Manipur legislative assembly,” the notice read.

The seven Congress MLAs are facing anti-defection cases under the Tenth Schedule of Constitution.

The crisis comes just days before the Rajya Sabha elections scheduled on 19 June. Manipur will see election for one Rajya Sabha seat.


Also read: Year-long power tussle between CM & his deputy — how the Manipur crisis came to be


‘BJP trying to poach MLAs for cross-voting’ 

Sources in the Congress said three of the seven Congress MLAs have told the Speaker they would return to the party to avoid disqualification.

The Congress, which currently has 20 MLAs in a 59-member assembly, is claiming the support of six more MLAs — 4 NPP MLAs, one independent and one from the Trinamool Congress. 

The BJP has 18 MLAs at present after the resignation of three MLAs Wednesday. 

The Speaker’s decision on the disqualification holds key to the power game.

Meanwhile, state BJP president professor Tikendra Singh told ThePrint: “The government has the majority and it will prove when required. It is the Speaker’s prerogative to decide on the disqualification. The Congress has claimed majority, but this question will arise when we will face the majority test.”

Manipur BJP sources told ThePrint Assam BJP leader Hemanta Biswa Sarma has called Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, who is the president of the NPP, and urged him to talk to the four NPP MLAs who have quit, including Joykumar Singh.

Joykumar Singh, however, told ThePrint: “We are not going along with the BJP. We are forming an alternative government. The BJP is trying to sabotage democracy like they did in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. They are trying to poach MLAs for cross-voting (in Rajya Sabha polls). We will approach the Supreme Court if the governor does not meet our demands.”

BJP strategy 

State BJP sources said the party is banking on a few Independent MLAs and is also hopeful of a few Congress MLAs, who might cross-vote in the Rajya Sabha elections.

After winning the Rajya Sabha elections, the BJP will buy time to defuse the crisis. Another option is President’s Rule if the BJP doesn’t cobble up numbers to save its government, sources added.

“We are watching the evolving situation. The first priority is the Rajya Sabha election, which will prove we have numbers. Then the question will arise of proving numbers (in the assembly). Anyway, in Covid situation, the floor test can’t happen immediately. We have numbers, which will be proved at the right time,” said Manipur BJP chief Singh.


Also read: Mizoram minister Robert Romawia Royte carries boulders to help rebuild neighbour’s house


 

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