| Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh (second from left) at Raj Bhavan in Imphal on Wednesday after taking oath. Picture by UB Photos |
New Delhi, March 15: The race for the chief minister’s post over, 10 Janpath is now acting as the finishing line for the post of deputy chief minister(s) of Manipur.
Churachandpur legislator Phunzathang Tonsing faxed a memorandum, bearing the signatures of 24 of the 42 Congress legislators, to AICC president Sonia Gandhi this morning, claiming the support of more than half of the party MLAs to his candidature as the deputy chief minister.
Tonsing argued that his record as one of the seniormost Congress leader was proven yet again with the party winning all the six seats in the hill district of Churachandpur.
The Kuki leader, however, told this correspondent today, “If it is felt that Phunzathang Tonsing cannot be seniormost, let there be two deputy chief ministers — Phunzathang and Gaikhangam. I want to cement Kuki and Naga ties and have a patch-up among communities.”
The Kukis and Nagas of the hills seem to want their own representatives in powerful positions.
Manipur PCC president and Naga leader Gaikhangam was in the race for the top slot but Ibobi Singh was too strong for him. Now he is eyeing the deputy chief minister’s post with AICC secretary in-charge of Manipur Luizinho Faleiro batting for him, sources said.
The central leadership knows about the state of governance in Manipur. But Ibobi Singh is too powerful politically to accept dilution of powers even from the high command.
At the same time, two major problems in the hills threaten to make fissures in Manipuri society even deeper — the demand to upgrade Sadar Hills to a district and deep distrust for valley-based leadership in the Naga-dominated hills.
One of the proposals to resolve the problem was to have a tribal chief minister, which was unacceptable to the Meitei legislators. The compromise formula then is to have a Kuki and Naga deputy chief minister each to keep the hills happy.
Ibobi Singh had promised the deputy chief minister’s post to Tonsing 2007 but Tonsing could not have the cake and kept nursing discontent.
Faleiro, who did not visit the state even during the elections, has been unable to resolve these issues. In fact, he has been accused by some hill legislators of creating more problems.
“He keeps quoting Sonia Gandhi’s name for any action he takes. That is why he was told not to get involved in Mizoram by a Mizo leader in 2008,” a source said.
Faleiro could not be contacted.
In Imphal, governor Gurbachan Jagat will convene the first session of the 10th Manipur Assembly at 2pm on March 19. Before the session starts, the newly elected members will elect the Speaker at 10am. The last date for submitting the nominations for the post of Speaker is till 3pm on Saturday. The governor will address the first session, which will be a budget session.
Ibobi Singh yesterday took oath of office as the chief minister for the third consecutive term. No other minister took oath yesterday.
The ministry will be formed after Ibobi Singh, who left for New Delhi yesterday after the swearing-in to consult AICC president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the distribution of portfolios, returns. He is expected to return tomorrow.
Of the eight ministers who were re-elected, some of them may miss the bus this time. Four ministers could not make it to the Assembly.
In another development, CPI state secretary Moiran-gthem Nara Singh has convened an open discussion of leaders of political parties, academics and intellectuals here tomorrow to discuss the alleged manipulation in electronic voting machines.
The non-Congress parties suspect that those in power manipulated the EVMs to win 42 seats. “We had expected the Congress to be the single largest party. However, nobody had expected it to win so many seats (42). Tomorrow’s meeting will mark the start of a campaign in the country for banning EVMs,” Nara Singh said.
“We don’t have proof that the machines were manipulated. But there is strong suspicion of manipulation by those in power. The Congress itself was surprised by the results,” he added.
Manipur went to the polls on January 28 and the counting was held on March 6.