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Manipur: 4 Congress MLAs join BJP on a day Rahul held a meet on North East

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 28 April 2017, 19:03 IST

A month after it failed to form the government in Manipur despite emerging as the single largest party, Congress received yet another setback on Friday after four of its elected representatives joined the BJP. The four MLAs – Y Surchandra, Ngamthang Haokip, O Lukhoi and S Bira – joined the saffron party in presence of Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convener Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Ironically, these four switched to BJP on a day when sources claim that Congress vice president was holding a meeting of party's North-East Coordination Committee. Earlier in March, soon after the results of the assembly elections were announced, two Congress MLAs -- T Shyamkumar and Ginsuanhau Zou -- joined the BJP. Shyamkumar was later sworn in as a Cabinet minister in the Biren Singh government.

With these defections, BJP's tally in the 60-member Manipur assembly has gone up to 38 while Congress that won 28 seats in the recently concluded assembly polls is now reduced to 22. Thereafter, Congress state president TN Haokip filed two petitions seeking disqualification of the two MLAs which is still pending with the Governor. Congress sources claimed that they will seek disqualification of these four as well under the anti-defection law.

As the news of these four MLAs joining came in, Sarma shared photos of their felicitation on Twitter and said, “Inspired by visionary leadership of @narendramodi ji & @AmitShah ji @rammadhavbjp ji 4 @INCIndia MLAs join @BJP4Manipur.Glad to welcome them.” In another tweet, he said, “Growing assertion of NorthEast to visionary leadership of @narendramodi ji evident. Joining of 4 @INCIndia MLA today in Manipur another exmp.”

A BJP leader on the request of anonymity said, “People are joining BJP clearly shows that they are confident about the party providing a stable government whose focus is about the development of the region which was grossly neglected by the previous Congress government.”

Ever since its loss in Assam, Congress has been witnessing mass exodus of its leaders from the North East. Much of the credit for getting Congress leaders to switch loyalties is attributed to Sarma who has been instrumental in realising BJP's aggressive push of a “Congress-free North East”.

In fact, both Singh and Sarma, who felicitated the four Manipur legislators into BJP, are former Congress heavyweights and had switched to BJP after the saffron party decided to capture the north-eastern region from the grand old party. In fact, BJP has largely been successful in achieving that considering it managed to form government in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and has set its sight on the other states in the region.

“BJP is luring Congress leaders with huge amounts of money and even a promise of a Cabinet berth and since the chips are down for the party right now, nothing can be ruled out. If all Congress MLAs, except one, can leave the party and join BJP as it happened in Arunachal Pradesh then anything can happen. BJP is hell bent on forming government in all north eastern states using money power and there is hardly anything that the party can do,” said a functionary from the north-east.

In fact, not only Congress, even the Trinamool Congress, which is engaged in a bitter battle with BJP, suffered a major setback after its Manipur unit, along with its President and lone legislator Tongbram Robindro, merged with the BJP. He too was welcomed into the party by the BJP chief minister.

Meanwhile, BJP has long term plans for Manipur and has now set its sight on the Panchayat elections and 2019 general elections. Manipur has two MP seats, both of which are held by the Congress. BJP is confident of winning both of them next time. Rajat Sethi, advisor to the Manipur chief minister, told Catch, “There has been a sense of mistrust between communities owing to the policies of the previous government. The plan is to first work towards building confidence between communities. It is crucial that this confidence is restored considering Manipur is critical to the national security of the country.”

First published: 28 April 2017, 18:09 IST