Imphal, Oct. 6: In a move that caught party leaders by surprise, N. Biren Singh, spokesperson and vice-president (organisation) of the Manipur PCC, today resigned from the Congress and the state Assembly.
Biren Singh, a former minister who held key portfolios in the previous government, announced his decisions before the media at his residence on the outskirts of Imphal city in the presence of a large numbers of his supporters.
"I am quite surprised by Biren's decision. He is one of my most trusted friends. I don't know why he took such a step. He did not give us any hint that he would take such a step," PCC president T.N. Haokip told The Telegraph.
Biren Singh said he had not decided on joining any party yet. "I will consult my supporters and I will comply with the decision taken by them," he said.
However, there is speculation that Biren Singh may join the BJP - which is becoming a strong rival to the Congress, which has been in power for the last 15 years.
The Manipur Assembly election is likely to be held in February next year.
Biren Singh is the second senior Congress legislator to leave the party recently. Yumkham Erabot Singh, one of the senior-most Congress MLAs, left the party and joined the BJP last month.
Congress leaders said no one would follow suit.
Regarding the possible impact of Biren Singh's resignation, Haokip said: "It is premature to say anything now."?
Asked if he was planning to become Manipur's Himanta Biswa Sarma, Biren Singh replied that he had not taken any decision on his next move.
He said his mission now would be to safeguard the land in the valley and more development in the hills. "Influx and subsequent settlements in the valley have chocked the plains while the hills are protected as scheduled areas. We need to protect the land in the valley, as is being done in the hills."?
He said he was resigning from the Assembly because as a Congress MLA he could not contribute to development work in the state.
"The Congress government mishandled the inner-line permit issue. It could not resolve the issue of the bodies of the nine protesters who died during agitation against three bills passed by state Assembly last year. The government has failed to safeguard the interest of the people. So, I decided to resign as an MLA and from the party," Biren Singh said.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh once used Biren Singh as one of his "trouble-shooters" but, sources said, their relationship had soured over the last three years.
In his Facebook posts, Biren Singh openly criticises Ibobi Singh.
M. Asnikumar Singh, BJP vice-president in charge of publicity, said the party would welcome Biren Singh if he decides to join.
"Biren's resignation is the beginning of the end for the Congress in Manipur," Asnikumar said.