Imphal: The curtain came down Thursday on the week-long political turbulence in Manipur with all four NPP MLAs submitting a letter backing embattled Chief Minister N Biren Singh to Governor Najma Heptulla, days after they resigned as ministers and joined forces with the opposition Congress.
National People’s Party (NPP) chief Conrad Sangma, who arrived in Imphal in the afternoon, said his party MLAs will withdraw their resignation which were not accepted by the governor yet.
The efforts to salvage the BJP government came to fruition after the MLAs were flown to New Delhi by Sangma, also the Meghalaya chief minister, and BJP’s pointsman in the North-East Himanta Biswa Sarma, for a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and saffron party president J P Nadda.
The four had complained about “mistreatment” by the chief minister.
With their return to the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP-led coalition of parties in the region, the Biren Singh government now has the support of 27 MLAs in the assembly whose strength has come down to 52 after the resignations and disqualification of eight lawmakers.
Accompanied by Sangma and Sarma, the four MLAs drove down to the chief minister’s office from Raj Bhavan where Singh warmly received them and all shook hands with each other.
Since their resignation were yet to be accepted, all the four technically remain ministers and need not take oath afresh.
“We had meetings with Nadda and Shah, and we expressed all our grievances and concerns we had as a part of this alliance,” Sangma told reporters outside the airport.
“Both the leaders understood and assured us that all the issues will be addressed and taken care of,” he said.
At the peak of the political crisis when the Biren Singh government looked on the brink of collapse, the Speaker had accepted the resignation of three BJP MLAs who had quit both the party and assembly membership. He had also disqualified the lone TMC MLA who had withdrawn support from the government.
Three of the seven MLAs, who had won the 2017 polls as Congress nominees and later switched over to the BJP, were also disqualified. The petitions relating to their disqualification were heard by the Manipur High Court and also the Speaker’s Tribunal. They were barred from voting in the June 19 Rajya Sabha election in the state.
One Congress MLA had been disqualified several months ago.
The effective strength of the House was reduced to 52 after the resignation and disqualification of MLAs and Biren Singh needed the support of 27 legislators for his government to stay afloat.
He now has the backing of 18 MLAs of the BJP, four each of the NPP and Naga People’s Front and one of the LJP.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the canny NEDA convenor and Asssam minister, kept shuttling between Guwahati and Imphal all these days, sometimes in the company of Sangma.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav also visited the state, apparently to felicitate BJP’s Rajya Sabha poll winner Leishemba Sanajaoba, the titular king of Manipur, but did his bit to save the government.
His victory at the peak of the political crisis, when the Biren Singh government appeared to have lost majority, indicated that the BJP dispensation might survive the headwind.
Sanajaoba had defeated Congress nominee T Mangi Babu by four votes.
The Congress made a failed attempt to pull down the BJP government taking advantage of the discontent in the ruling alliance.
After trouble erupted on June 17 when nine MLAs withdrew support to the government, Congress had swung into action and roped in the disgruntled lawmakers to float the Secular Progressive Front (SPF).
It hoped to form a coalition government led by former chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh.
Ibobi Singh, however, found himself in the soup after he was questioned by the CBI in an old corruption case in the midst of political machinations.
When asked whether the NPP will now pull out of the SPF, Sangma said,”Obviously we will.”
“It gives us a lot of confidence that the two national leaders (Shah and Nadda) will be looking into the affairs of the state,” he added.
Sangma said there will be some changes in the portfolios but all the four NPP MLAs will continue as ministers.
The Congress emerged as the single largest party after the 2017 assembly polls but fell short of a majority in the House. The BJP had then formed a coalition government with the help of NPP and others.
The BJP and its NEDA allies are in power in all the eight states of the North-East.