Imphal, Feb. 28: The man who was supposed to be his challenger today turned out to be the one who put Okram Ibobi Singh on the path to a second term in office.
Fireworks had been expe-cted at the meeting to elect the Manipur Congress Legislature Party leader with PCC chief Gaikhangam touted as a strong contender for the chief ministership. But Ibobi Sin-gh’s ascent to the chair was a smooth one by any yardstick.
Gaikhangam proposed his name, senior legislators Th. Devendra Singh and Phungzathang Tonsing seconded it and Ibobi Singh was past the finishing line without a hiccup.
Union minister Oscar Fernandez was the AICC’s observer at the two-hour meeting, attended by all 29 Congress newly-elected legislators. He said Ibobi Singh was the “unanimous choice”.
Smiling more than he did yesterday after winning two seats, Ibobi Singh looked quite the man who knows he is in control as he left for Raj Bhavan later to stake claim to power with the support of the CPI and the National People’s Party (NPP).
The CPI has four seats and the NPP three. Although the Congress has won 30 seats, it is effectively a 29-member legislature party in a House of 60 because Ibobi will have to surrender one constituency.
Before Ibobi announced the shape of the new ruling alliance, there had been speculation about the Congress planning to dump the CPI, its ally in the erstwhile Secular Progressive Front ministry, and form the next government with the support of some Independents and the NPP.
A CPI leader fuelled the theory saying the Congress had not invited his party to renew the alliance. The size of the ministry cannot exceed 12, including the chief minister.
As the Congress went about its business, clashes between workers of rival candidates in two districts — Imphal East and Bishenpur — kept the police on their toes.
In Keirao constituency of Imphal East, trouble broke out soon after the results were declared. Congress candidate and rural development and panchayati raj minister Md Allauddin retained the seat after defeating Karam Thamarjit Singh of the Manipur State Congress Party by only two votes.
What began as a minor scuffle between workers of the two candidates in Kiyamgei locality soon snowballed into a major clash, with MSCP workers attacking five houses belonging to Congress workers. The mob also set a local club on fire.
In Wangoo, under Kumbi constituency, Congress workers allegedly set ablaze at least 15 houses belonging to CPI workers.