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Reshuffle cry gets shriller

- Cong MLAs meet Ibobi

Imphal, June 30: The “reshuffle-or-face-revolt” campaign by majority of the Congress MLAs in Manipur intensified today with pro-shuffle members “parading” themselves before chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh to reiterate their demand.

Twenty-seven MLAs trouped into the office of Ibobi Singh this morning and demanded an assurance that the he would reshuffle his nearly two-and-a-half-year-old ministry after the state Assembly session slated for next month.

These MLAs are demanding that Speaker Thokchom Lokeshwar Singh and 10 ministers be changed to give chance to others to become ministers and Speaker. They, however, did not make any demand for change of leadership or dropping of deputy chief minister Gaikhangam in the reshuffle.

Today’s parade came after Ibobi Singh did not respond to the representation submitted earlier this month urging him to reshuffle the ministry. The representation warned Ibobi Singh that if he failed to give an assurance before the Assembly session that he would indeed reshuffle his ministry, the 27 MLAs would stay away from the session.

The MLAs made it very clear that they would give a free hand to the chief minister to choose his team in the event of a reshuffle. “Yes, the 27 of us met the chief minister for about an hour today. The chief minister gave us a patient hearing and promised us that he would convey the demand to the party high command,” a leader of the pro-reshuffle group told The Telegraph.

Ibobi Singh is leaving Imphal tomorrow to attend a party meeting in New Delhi and he assured us that he would report the development to the high command during the meeting. “The chief minister told us to meet him again after his return from New Delhi,” the leader said.

The Congress originally elected 42 members. The strength increased to 47 after all five legislators of the regional Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) merged with the Congress just before the Lok Sabha election. The five former MSCP members are not among the 27.

Barring Ibobi Singh’s MLA wife Landhoni Devi and another senior member Yumkham Erabot Singh, all the original Congress MLAs joined the pro-reshuffle group. The strength of the Ibobi Singh ministry is 12.

The demand for a reshuffle has been prompted by the fear that the MLAs would have little chance of winning in the next state Assembly election with the BJP trying to oust the Congress in the state.

“The ministers refuse to listen to us and our needs are being ignored. We need to reassure our voters that the Congress is a party that gives opportunity to all MLAs by reshuffling the ministry,” the leader said.

The pro-reshuffle group does not consider its demand anti-party. It claimed that it only wanted to strengthen the party and be prepared for the next state Assembly election.