After winning the lone Rajya Sabha seat on offer in Manipur in Friday’s election, the BJP is now trying to ensure it can hold on to its government in the state, where the opposition Congress is forming a new alliance – the SPF (Secular Progressive Front).
The BJP has unleashed Himanta Biswa Sarma – its trouble-shooter in the northeast. Mr Sarma reached state capital Imphal Sunday night and he wasn’t alone – Meghalaya Chief Minister and NPP leader Conrad Sangma, whose Manipur unit precipitated this crisis for the BJP, was with him.
They will try to cement the gaps between the state units of the NPP (National People’s Party) and BJP, gaps that led to four NPP MLAs withdrawing support from Chief Minister Biren Singh’s government last week, sources within both parties told NDTV.
The combined visit of Mr Sangma and Mr Sarma – the architects of the BJP’s efforts to cobble together enough numbers to form the government back in 2017 – comes at the behest of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Party sources, however, have also said that Mr Sangma’s concern is not just the BJP but the positioning of his own party. During his Imphal visit he hopes to settle on the way forward for his outfit in Manipur.
An alliance with the Congress – its arch-rival back in Meghalaya – will be difficult to explain to his allies, sources added.
Mr Sarma and Mr Sangma are believed to have had several rounds of meetings with MLAs and party officials, both together and separately. However, NPP sources have said that these meetings were “inconclusive”.
Conrad Sangma is reportedly trying to persuade his MLAs to reconsider their decision to withdraw support and join the Congress-led SPF, which is pushing for a special session of the Assembly to move a no-confidence motion against the government.
Also on Sunday the Manipur unit of the NPP issued a statement explaining its actions. “The BJP is running the government in an autocratic manner and has refused to form a steering committee,” it said, while also alleging that there was no common minimum programme, no name for the alliance or consultation with coalition partners to decide Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha candidates and no allotment of ministerial portfolios.
Party sources added that the NPP has conveyed to BJP leadership, including Himanta Biswa Sarma that change in state leadership is a non-negotiable demand.
Meanwhile, the Congress has also flown in senior leaders – MP Gaurav Gogoi and Ajay Maken. The party is, for now, in “wait and watch” mode to see what the NPP does, a senior Manipur Congress functionary said. The party adopted a two-pronged strategy.
On the one hand it is weighing legal options to challenge the Speaker’s decision to not allow four Congress MLAs to vote in Rajya Sabha polls.
It is also keeping channels of communication open with some top NPP leaders, a senior party leader said on condition of anonymity.