Legally caught off-guard

There is still the matter of the Manipur High Court striking down the two laws relating to Parliamentary Secretaries and its aftermath hanging like a guillotine’s blade on the fate of the Manipur government.

The Election Commission of India has decided to hold by-elections to fill only two vacancies in the Manipur Legislative Assembly out of the 13 seats which were recently declared vacant. By-elections will now be held on November 7, 2020 in 30-Lilong and 34-Wangjing Tentha assembly constituencies of Thoubal district, and it is surprising that the state government was completely unaware of the developing situation in the corridors of the Election Commission. The BJP seems slightly dejected after the Election Commission announced elections in only two constituencies as they were expecting elections in at least eight constituencies out of the thirteen and hoping to increase its tally.

The general expectation was that, by-election in at least five constituencies namely Wangkhei, Wangoi, Wangjing-Tentha, Saitu and Singhat would be announced, while the rest was having legal hiccups. Now, it seems legal problems have recently come up in the five other constituencies also. We think, it is too much of a coincidence that legal problems have suddenly surfaced in the said constituencies including Wangkhei and Wangoi, the former MLAs of which were recently inducted in the N Biren Singh-led ministry. Perhaps, the legal antenna of the Biren government is too short to pre-empt such scenarios and to plan legal strategies accordingly. That must be why it was caught off-guard with the announcement of by-elections in only two constituencies.

The Manipur Legislative Assembly has now an effective strength of 47 legislators with 13 clear vacancies by the Assembly Speaker Y Khemchand. In the first instance, seven seats were declared vacant after disqualification of four Congress MLAs and three BJP legislators whose resignations were accepted by the Speaker. The four Congress MLAs were Th Shyamkumar of Andro, Ksh Biren of Lamlai, S Bira of Kumbi and Y Surchandra of Kakching assembly constituency while the three BJP legislators whose resignations were accepted are Samuel Jendai of Tamenglong, TT Haokip of Henglep and S Subhaschandra of Naoriya Pakhanglakpa assembly constituency. This happened just before the recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections, in which the BJP nominee Leishemba Sanajaoba got elected from the lone Manipur seat in the Upper House.

In the second instance, six Congress legislators resigned from their respective assembly seats just after Chief Minister N Biren Singh won the vote of confidence in the assembly. They are Okram Henry Singh of Wangkhei, Oinam Lukhoi of Wangoi, Md Abdul Nasir of Lilong, Paonam Brojen of Wangjing Tentha, Ngamthang Haokip of Saitu and Ginsuanhau of Singhat assembly constituency.

After this, out of the effective strength of 47 members in the house the Congress was reduced to 17 as the Speaker Y Khemchand declared unattached the Sagolband MLA RK Imo Singh after being expelled from Congress, while the ruling coalition has 30 including the Speaker. The latest tally has BJP 18, NPP 4, NPF 4, Trinamool Congress 1, Lok Janshakti 1, Independent 1 and unattached 1. We are not exactly certain as to where the Lok Janshakti representative Karam Shyam stands after being dropped recently from the ministry. The NPP seems clearly tamed as Deputy CM Y Joykumar and Sports Minister Letpao Haokip was seen sharing the dais together with the Chief Minister and other ministers at the Irawat Day function, despite the veiled threat issued by its two colleagues who were dropped.

There is no gainsaying of the fact that Chief Minister N Biren Singh has been able to weather the political storm for the present with the reshuffle he effected. Yet, despite the façade of calm there is still the matter of the Manipur High Court striking down the two laws relating to Parliamentary Secretaries and its aftermath hanging like a guillotine’s blade on the fate of the government. Who knows, how it landed itself in the latest legal soup of likely disqualification of the 12 legislators who were once Parliamentary Secretaries. Sooner or later, this matter of Parliamentary Secretary will come to haunt and surface at the most unexpected hour. How it defends itself legally and match wits with the opposing legal team, when the time comes, remains to be seen.
 

First Published:Oct. 1, 2020, 1:01 a.m.

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