Frontline Kuki-Zo bodies like Kangpokpi based KIM and Churachandpur based ITLF says, the 10 MLAs representing the Kuki-Zo population might not remain forever in ‘support’ of the Manipur government led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh and they might even ask them to resign as MLAs if their demands are not met by the Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi.
Without withdrawing support from the Biren Singh government or two of them remaining as ministers for the last eight months, these Kuki-Zo MLAs had been ‘demanding’ a separate administration within the state of Manipur. In the most recent ITLF convention, a demand for centrally administered region or Union Territory is being floated which they intend to carry forward with ‘support’ from Mizoram. Whether the Manipur Legislative Assembly or the BJP ‘high command’ intends to take up disciplinary proceedings against these 10 MLAs or not is another thing. What is more interesting is that the status of the said MLAs remains more or less the same since Day One.
Despite making ‘outrageous demands’ of separate administration and all kinds of statements, they still remain ministers or MLAs. While the two ministers still function taking the advantage of e-office, the MLAs continue to draw pay and allowances besides other privileges available to MLAs. This begs the question of whether they are issuing statements and making the demands ‘under duress’ or for that matter unwilling actors in the whole charade of victimhood and of an oppressed community.
Sometime back, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said that he is in talks with the Kuki MLAs. Talking to a national daily, he said that he is in touch with the legislators from the Kuki-Zo community and would provide adequate security for them to attend the Assembly session slated for August 29. He further claimed, “The MLAs and ministers, we are old friends, I am talking to them, I told them we cannot be separated. We have been together all these years and will be together in future as well.”
However, all the 10 Kuki MLAs in Manipur, including seven from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party immediately refuted the Chief Minister’s claim that they are in talks with him. That was on August 25 last year. The Kuki MLAs had clarified that they do not have any intention to communicate with CM N Biren Singh, while also accusing the CM of trying to sow seeds of mistrust and disunity between the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar MLAs and their people.
Next came, the matter of seeking leave of absence from the Speaker of Manipur assembly by six out of ten Kuki MLAs that they would not be able to attend the assembly session convened in August 29 citing various reasons like law and order situation, insecurity and health problems. While Minister Nemcha Kipgen of Kangpokpi submitted her leave application, the other five submitted the same on August 28 a day ahead of the session.
The five MLAs are Minister Letpao Haokip of Tengnoupal, LM Khaute of Churachandpur, Kimneo Hangshing of Saikul, Letzamang of Henglep and Haokholet Kipgen of Saitu. There might be several reasons for the remaining four MLAs for keeping mum, but it was apparent that something is not right in the façade of unity shown by the 10 MLAs in their demand for a separate administration.
On the other hand, CoTU and ITLF had vowed that ‘they would not allow the ten Kuki-Zo elected representatives’ to attend the August 29 session or any other future session which begs the question as to whether the MLAs had been pressured not to attend against their will. There have also been demands from several quarters for disqualifying the 10 MLAs including ministers for making the demand for separate administration and the matter had been lying in the Privilege Committee of the legislative assembly for consideration. Once again, the case of the serving government ministers is quite different from that of the ordinary MLAs.
While the entitlements of being an MLA might be curtailed if they fail to seek leave of absence from Assembly sessions, there is always a possibility of the serving ministers being dropped if they failed to neglect their bounden duties or function officially. This could have been the reason for applying for leave from the Assembly session despite the diktat from the leading CSOs.