In a big boost to the N Biren Singh government in Manipur, the Bharatiya Janata Party has won the lone Rajya Sabha seat of Manipur with the party candidate, Leishemba Sanajaoba, Titular King of Manipur, securing 28 votes of the 52 votes cast.
“We are very thankful to all the members who had voted for the BJP. Today, the people of the entire nation particularly Manipur have seen who has got the majority,” Chief Minister N Biren Singh said.
The newly formed Secular Progressive Front (SPF), an alliance of the Congress and the NPP, the TMC, had claimed to have the upper hand with 26, including 20 Congress MLAs, four from NPP, one AITC and an independent MLA. It also asserted that the BJP Ministry has only 18 MLAs supported by four Naga People’s Front (NPF) and one Lokjanshakti Party MLA. However, T. Mangibabu, the Congress candidate, got only 24 votes.
With the political situation in the state unstable, the voting saw intense drama with the opposition alleging irregularities committed by the ruling party. The SPF alliance allegedly resented the disqualification of a few selected MLAs and alleged violation of secrecy of the ballot by Speaker of the Manipur Assembly Y. Khemchand Singh and a senior legislator Ngamthang Haokip.
The voting which started at 9 am on Friday ended at 4 pm. The counting of votes which was supposed to begin around 5 pm was delayed. The counting started around 5:20 pm and the result was announced at 8:55 pm. However, Chief Election Officer (CEO) PK. Singh said that it was a normal process.
INC candidate T Mangibabu expressed disappointment that the election was not conducted in a free and fair manner as advocated by the Election Commission of India.
“Rather, the election was held without any regard to rules and laws of the country as laid down in the Constitution,” he stated. He contended that of the seven defected MLAs, three were allowed to cast vote while the remaining four were not allowed to cast vote by disqualifying them.
“The act of the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly is shameful. It will not be good for the state,” he opined.
The disqualified MLAs were Ksh Biren, MLA of Lamlai; Sanasam Bira, MLA of Kumbi; Y Surchandra, MLA of Kakching; T Robindro, MLA of Thanga.
In an interesting turn of events, a petition was filed against T Robindro, who had recently pulled out from the BJP and joined the Congress, by BJP MLA Th. Satyabrata under the anti-defection law. Satyabrata claimed that though Robindro was elected with AITC ticket, he had merged with the BJP to form the present coalition government in 2017. But, he had been colluding with the Congress to overthrow the BJP led coalition.
Three MLAs whose cases were dismissed and allowed to vote were MLA Ginsuanhau of Singhat, MLA O Lukhoi of Wangoi; MLA Ngamthang Haokip of Saitu.
The disqualification of four of the seven defected MLAs comes despite the directive of the Manipur High Court to the Speaker not to announce the disqualification case of seven Congress turncoats pending at the speaker’s tribunal to avoid complications. The HC asked to keep on hold till Friday. Interestingly, the speaker went ahead with the announcement but petitions of three were dismissed, citing devoid of merit.
Meanwhile, election agents of the INC and NPP leaders lodged a complaint to the presiding officer to cancel/ reject votes cast by two members and not to declare the result of the election until the said votes are cancelled and rejected. A similar, complaint was also reportedly lodged by the INC central leaders to the Election Commission of India.
The INC leaders, in the memorandum submitted to the ECI, mentioned that MLA Ngamthang Haokip and speaker Y Khemchand directly and blatantly violated the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 during the casting of votes on Friday by displaying their votes prominently in third (unauthorised) parties.
“The speaker Y Khemchand displayed his vote unauthorisedly to the INC representative. Meanwhile, INC MLA Ngamthang Haokip has shown his vote to the BJP’s authorised representative and generally to others present in the room as well. This can be established by a viewing of the video recording of the proceedings,” they stated.
However, M Ramani Devi, Manipur Legislative Assembly secretary and returning officer, clarified that there was no violation of secrecy and that the complaint was baseless.