Manipur opposition leader and former Chief Minister for 15 years Okram Ibobi Singh and other senior Congress leaders are upbeat that six party MLAs who had joined the ruling BJP are left holding empty sacks.
The six have been denied ministerial berths and most of them are likely to return to the party.
Anticipating such a development, the Congress did not approach Speaker Y. Khemchand with a disqualification petition against them.
Ibobi told IANS on Saturday that as a tactical move no action is being sought against them so far. “However we have gone to the High Court against the inordinate delay in disqualifying Forest Minister T. Shyamkumar, the Congress MLA who joined the BJP even before being sworn in as MLA. We are hopeful that the High Court will take up necessary steps,” Ibobi added.
Sources said the Congress MLAs had crossed the floor on the tacit understanding that they will get ministerial berths. However, things are not running smoothly in the BJP-led coalition ministry sworn in on March 15.
Health Minister L. Jayentakumar had submitted his resignation but withdrew it later. Six of the 12 Parliamentary Secretaries had reportedly submitted their resignations as they were miffed at the way the ministers had bypassed them.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said, “They had submitted resignations for alternative arrangements.”
On the six Congress MLAs who had joined the BJP, Biren said, “There was no bargaining chip like giving ministerial berths. They know that they have a good chance to get reelected in the next elections in view of the good developmental works the government has done. This is the only reason for their joining the BJP.”
However Ibobi said, “The state government has not done anything new. What it has done is to give a new nomenclature to the schemes started by the Congress government.”
In the 60-member House, the ruling Congress had bagged 28 seats while the BJP got 21 seats in the elections earlier this year. But by joining hands with some splinter parties the BJP commanded the support of 32 and the Governor invited Biren to form the ministry.
Ibobi says that as the single largest party Governor Najma Heptulla should have given him a chance to form the ministry. The Congress “defectors” may not find it easy to come back now that the Congress national leaders have toughened their stand. Recently Congress leader Salman Khurshid said in Shillong, capital of Meghalaya in the northeast, that those who had left the party shall not be welcomed back.
“Some members who were given more than they deserved had left the party for personal gains and they are not welcome again,” Khurshid said.
Ibobi said, “It does not matter whether the Congress comes to power again or not now.” But he and other state leaders see light at the end of the tunnel as the Congress has started retrieving lost ground elsewhere in the country too.