11th Manipur Legislative Assembly: A complicated term
IFP Editorial: The 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly is itself ‘jinxed’ with the second largest party BJP with 21 MLAs forming the government with hastily cobbled together allies from NPP, NPF, LJP, Trinamool and an independent besides a Congress defector.
Updated on 10 Dec 2021, 7:35 am
Things are becoming more complicated in the Manipur legislative assembly these days with the courts striking down disqualification orders issued by the Speaker and overturning the election results in certain constituencies. Even stranger is the recent ruling of the Manipur governor with regard to disqualification issue of 12 MLAs who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries. Although late in the term, the courts had ruled against the election of Kakching MLA Yengkhom Surchandra Singh and Wangkhei MLA Okram Henry in favour of Mayanglambam Rameshwar and Yumkham Erabot Singh both of BJP who were sworn in as MLAs.
The 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly is itself ‘jinxed’ with the second largest party BJP with 21 MLAs forming the government with hastily cobbled together allies from NPP, NPF, LJP, Trinamool and an independent besides a Congress defector. Th Shyamkumar, the Congress defector was subsequently disqualified by the High Court. The Congress won 28 seats in the 2017 state assembly elections just three short of a simple majority and had to sit in the opposition while many of its MLAs were in cohorts with the BJP Chief Minister N Biren Singh. The situation was such that the ‘silent’ supporters of the BJP led government were neither in Congress nor in BJP, rather in the twilight zone. Except for frequent attendances at BJP functions or donning saffron colours, the silent supporters of BJP never did openly leave the Congress party which would have attracted disqualification under the 10th of the Indian Constitution. So, it was indeed a confusing scenario for everyone.
However, the complex relations with allies and silent supporters came to such a situation in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections that the Speaker had to issue disqualification orders for some MLAs including a few silent supporters. Now, the Supreme Court has overturned the Speaker’s disqualification order with regard to T Robindro of Thanga, Ksh Biren of Lamlai, S Bira of Kumbi and Y Surchandra of Kakching. On the other hand, the state governor had ruled that the 12 MLAs who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries did not attract disqualification, on the basis of the opinion given by the Election Commission of India. The Supreme Court had earlier expressed its displeasure at delay by the Manipur governor in deciding on the disqualification of 12 MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government in Manipur for allegedly holding office of profit in contravention of the law. Congress MLA DD Thaisii had complained that even after the Election Commission submitted its recommendation to the governor in January this year, the constitutional head of the state is yet to decide on the plea for disqualifying the 12 MLAs, some of whom are ministers in the state cabinet.
The governor is obligated under Article 192 of the Constitution to take a decision on questions as to disqualifications of members of the assembly after obtaining the opinion of the Election Commission. The Election Commission gave its opinion to the governor way back in January. Earlier, it was alleged that the Election Commission has been “dragging its feet” by not submitting the opinion to the governor but the situation is different since the governor is in receipt of this report for almost 10 months. The question now is, why did the Election Commission of India drag its feet on giving its timely opinion and again why the office of governor refrained from acting on the opinion of the Election Commission of India which is binding? La Ganesan was sworn in as the state governor in August this year. But, the matter was lying before the previous governor Najma Heptullah. We understand that, both of them were appointed by the BJP government at the Centre. Anyway, it would have been difficult for a governor to give a ruling on the office of profit issue which could rock a BJP government. But, if the ECI has given an opinion which is favourable to the BJP-led government why should it delay the decision? The paradox seems to be the timing of the final decision of the governor.