As the much awaited Manipur assembly approached, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh said 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 eight 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. 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 Manipur Assembly Speaker by six out of 10 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 10 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 ten 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. As such, the pressure mounted by Kuki-Zo ‘community’ for a separate administration based on the unity and commitment of the 10 MLAs had lost its sting in the process.
Then, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh made another claim on Monday in a press conference that the two Kuki ministers are functioning through the e-office procedure. He had clarified that since the two ministers are functioning by use of e-office, there is no question of a reshuffle in the government. So far till the filing of this column, there is no clarification from the two ministers whether the CM’s claim is right or not. But, it does not matter anymore.
READ MORE: IFP Editorial