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Manipur CM N Biren Singh 
Manipur CM N Biren Singh |File image
OPINION

Manipur CM N Biren’s move to tackle ‘scam’ may put him in jeopardy

A day after CM took over key depts like finance, PWD and power from two of his senior ministers, up to 17 MLAs from the ruling BJP have expressed their solidarity with them

Jayanta K Goswami

Jayanta K Goswami

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh’s decision to take over strategically important portfolios like finance, PWD and power from two of his senior Cabinet ministers, including deputy chief minister Y Joykumar Singh, may not go down well with a section of his team.

While Joykumar Singh was stripped off the finance portfolio, another senior minister, Thongam Biswajit Singh, too, got the sack on Thursday -- he was removed from key departments like PWD and power. The move allegedly comes in the wake of the financial situation currently prevailing in the state.

After CM Biren Singh, Biswajit Singh is considered as the No 2 in Manipur Cabinet. Unhappy over the development, up to 17 MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have already expressed their solidarity to side with their fellow party leader, sources said.

Voices have already grown louder for the removal of the CM in both Imphal and New Delhi, said sources.

These 17 MLAs have reportedly submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah urging them to immediately remove Biren Singh from the post of state CM. A team of these ‘unhappy’ MLAs are already camping in New Delhi to pressure the party leadership with their demands, said sources.

The CM himself is in New Delhi to discuss the prevailing situation with party high command.

Meanwhile, National People’s Party (NPP) leader and Meghalaya CM Conrad K Sangma has reportedly expressed serious concern over the decision of the Manipur CM to take away a key portfolio like finance from deputy CM Joykumar Singh and is closely monitoring the development in Imphal.

NPP is a major ally in the BJP-led coalition government in Manipur with four MLAs in the 60-member state legislative assembly.

Cracks between Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and senior Cabinet minister Thongam Biswajit Singh (above) are bound to widen now
Cracks between Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and senior Cabinet minister Thongam Biswajit Singh (above) are bound to widen now
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“Yes, we are closely monitoring the development in Manipur and keeping our fingers crossed. Anything can happen,” an NPP source said.

“Stripping of the finance portfolio means a lot and this will definitely affect the party’s image among the masses. We are not going to accept it at any cost,” the source added.

Meanwhile, sources in the state BJP unit said that a majority of the party’s MLAs, too, are not happy with the CM’s decision. Instead of discussing the entire issue with his colleagues, CM Biren Singh took the decision of his own, they alleged. “Up to 17 BJP MLAs are planning to move the party high command to demand the immediate removal of Biren Singh from the post of CM,” they said.

CM Biren Singh and senior Cabinet minister Thongam Biswajit Singh have not always been in the best of terms and with the latest development, cracks are only bound to widen.

Earlier, it was reported that senior BJP leaders like national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is also in-charge of Northeast, and secretary Ajay Jamwal had arrived in the state to bridge the gap in the Biren Singh government but had to return empty-handed as they reportedly failed to bring any amicable solution to the table.

Some BJP legislators even submitted memorandum to change the CM which the two central BJP leaders could not decide. It has been learnt that Thongam Biswajit was not happy with CM Biren Singh over differences of opinion in the functioning of the government.

“Altogether, 15 MLAs from the BJP had openly supported Biswajit,” sources said, adding: “Biswajit did not claim the chief minister’s seat but wanted the present chief minister to act as per the ideology of the BJP.”

Meanwhile, Naga People’s front (NPF), another partner in the BJP-led coalition government in Manipur, is already in talks to pull out of the government.

Former CM and senior NPF leader TR Zeliang in a tweet had recently said, “After an intense deliberation and review meeting with the party functionaries and the NPF MLAs of Manipur State, the NPF party has decided in principle to pull out our 4 NPF MLAs from the BJP led Govt in Manipur headed by N Biren Singh soon after the LS election is completed.”

As per the latest reshuffle in the Manipur ministry, chief minister Singh has now taken over finance, power, PWD, excise, taxation in addition to his existing portfolios. Similarly, deputy CM Joykumar, who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally in the state -- National People’s Party (NPP) -- has retained science and technology, economics and statistics and civil aviation.

The BJP, however, claimed that there is no threat to the government in the 60-member House. The party has 40 members. “Even if four MLAs leave the government, we will have 36 members,” a senior BJP leader told EastMojo on condition of anonymity.
During the assembly polls in 2017, the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 28 MLAs in the assembly election. Later, around eight Congress MLAs left the party.

The NPF has four MLAs in the Assembly. If the NPF pulls out, it wouldn’t impact the BJP-led coalition, which currently has 29 legislators in the House. The other parties in the ruling coalition are NPP (4), LJP (1), independent (1) and AITC (1).

Eight of the 28 Congress MLAs, who had won the 2017 polls, defected to the BJP last year, taking its tally from 21 to 29 in the Assembly.

As per the latest reshuffle in the Manipur ministry, chief minister Singh has now taken over finance, power, PWD, excise, taxation in addition to his existing portfolios. Similarly, deputy CM Joykumar, who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally in the state -- National People’s Party (NPP) -- has retained science and technology, economics and statistics and civil aviation.

Meanwhile, Biswajit Singh has been given portfolios of rural development and panchayati raj, commerce and industries, administrative reforms and training, information and public relations.

Chief minister N Biren Singh’s move came following the state Cabinet decision to authorise chief minister to take all necessary disciplinary actions to imbibe a culture of financial prudence and property in key government departments.

Meanwhile, what it could be termed as one of the major financial scams of the North-east, a huge amount of money, to the tune of several crores, were withdrawn allegedly by scrupulous means by the Public Works and Power Department of Manipur government during the period of March to May, 2019 while the model code of conduct was in force.

However, the state government has instituted a committee under the chairmanship of V Vumlunmang, principal secretary, government of Manipur to investigate into the alleged possible ‘scam’.