Imphal, April 3: The Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) today merged with the Congress en masse along with all five party MLAs just days ahead of polls to the state’s two Lok Sabha seats.
Leaders of the MSCP, along with five MLAs, led by party president Y. Mani Singh, negotiated with chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Manipur PCC president Gaikhangam, Congress ministers at the Congress Bhavan for more than six hours before Gaikhangam announced the merger in the presence of the MSCP leaders and MLAs.
Citing reasons for joining the Congress, the working president of the MSCP, Kh. Devabrata, said his party had decided to join the Congress to fight two major issues. He said one of the issues was “fundamentalism”, but refused to disclose the second issue.
Devabrata said today’s meeting was the outcome of months of negotiation between leaders of the two parties. The merger came as a big morale booster for the Congress, which is facing a tough fight in retaining the Outer Manipur and Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seats. The former will go to the polls on April 9 while election to the Inner seat will be held on April 17.
“This will ensure the success of our candidates,” a senior Congress leader said.
The Congress has 42 MLAs in a House of 60. With the joining of the five MLAs, their strength increases to 47.
The MSCP came into existence in December 1997 when some disgruntled Congress leaders, led by then Speaker Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh, broke away from the Congress. Nipamacha Singh went to become the chief minister of a coalition government led by the MSCP.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections MSCP candidate Th. Chaoba Singh (now president of the Manipur unit of the BJP) was elected from the Inner Manipur and became Union minister of state in-charge of youth affairs, sports and petro-chemical during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister.
This will be the second time the MSCP legislators merged with the Congress. In the 2002 election the party won seven seats and five of them joined the Congress.
As the leaders of the two parties were closeted at Congress Bhavan, a group of Congress workers from Sagolband Assembly constituency in Imphal West protested against the merger at the party office.
The women protesters, numbering more than 30, gathered at the gate of Congress Bhavan and shouted: “We protest the merger.” Police later dispersed them from the gate.
Though support for the Congress is growing, there is also discontent within the party. The All Tribal Chiefs’ Forum, Manipur and United Chiefs’ Committee, Manipur, had called a one-day bandh in the five hill districts against “irregular implementation” of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
BSF personnel fired in the air to disperse bandh supporters. A protester was hospitalised after he was beaten up by the police in Churachandpur today.