A meeting between four Manipur MLAs of the National People’s Party (NPP), along with Meghalaya Chief Minister and NPP chief Conrad Sangma, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah has brought some sense of resolution over the crisis hovering over the BJP after the MLAs announced that they were defecting to the Congress.
According to sources in the BJP, the four MLAs will communicate their return to the BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) government to Governor Najma Heptulla after their return to Imphal on Thursday. Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the main trouble-shooter for the BJP in the northeastern region, tweeted that the NPP MLAs met Mr. Shah and agreed to “work together for the development of Manipur”. Later, the MLAs met BJP president J.P. Nadda as well, and Mr. Sarma tweeted that the MLAs would continue to support the BJP-led government in Manipur.
The four MLAs, according to the sources, have some deep-seated anxieties and issues with regard to the working of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and explained their position to Mr. Shah. This issue had flared last year too, but Mr. Biren Singh had received the support of the BJP high command. This time however, the MLAs, whose party is also part of the ruling coalition in Meghalaya, timed their defection to coincide with the Rajya Sabha election. The BJP won the Rajya Sabha election, but not without Speaker Yumnam Khemchand Singh’s actions being called into question.
The sources confirmed that Mr. Shah heard the MLAs out and stressed that the MLAs of the NPP, which is “being part of the NEDA and in power in two States with the BJP”, “cannot defect to the Congress”.
“The concerns expressed by the MLAs have been taken on board,” said a source. The million dollar question, however, is the continuation of Mr. Biren Singh as Chief Minister. Sources said there were no immediate plans for his removal, but a long view, in the manner taken over the continuation of former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, would be taken. This means storm clouds are still looming over Mr. Biren Singh.
The Biren Singh government had been reduced to a minority after nine MLAs — four NPP, three BJP, one Trinamool Congress and one Independent — withdrew support and went over to the Congress, which staked a claim before Ms. Heptulla to form a government.