Updated on 11 Nov 2021, 9:16 pm
(File Photo: IFP)
Opposition Congress had no other alternative but to cry wolf as the party is drained of its leaders on an almost daily basis in the run-up to the 2022 Manipur assembly elections. A BJP spokesperson posted in the social media that except for former CM O Ibobi and family besides party stalwart and former deputy CM Gaikhangam none may be left in the Congress camp. After the Delhi reception of MLAs RK Imo and Yamthong Haokip into the BJP fold, MLA Ak Mirabai said no other Congress MLAs would be leaving the party.
However, former Congress MLA RK Imo was quick to respond with the ‘inside’ information that some other MLAs would be joining BJP and they are just waiting for an opportune moment and auspicious timing. Although Chief Minister N Biren Singh maintains a hotline with his former colleagues in the Congress, it was his son-in-law RK Imo who had been orchestrating defections from within and churning the Congress pot all along. The 2020 Rajya Sabha elections saw Congress MLAs, including the nephew of the powerful former CM O Ibobi switching sides in favour of the BJP candidate, which earned him the ultimate expulsion from Congress. After joining BJP, RK Imo was particularly critical of ‘the family’ in his utterances. While some may think that it is the ‘Nehru-Gandhi’ family he is talking about, in some ways he might also have been referring to the iron-grip that former CM Okram Ibobi wields in the state Congress and his projection of his wife and son in state politics.
Okram Ibobi Singh’s 15 year reign saw many tumultuous events and revolts within the Congress party, but he was able to weather all that because of the anti-defection law and a friendly Speaker which made him unchallenged while his hefty contributions earned him the clout with the first family in Congress. He ruled the party like his personal fiefdom and the post of state Congress chief became a musical chair of sorts, while his detractors fell by the wayside. He made sure that there is none to challenge him with the leadership of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP). It was mainly due to the autocratic style of O Ibobi Singh that ultimately became the last straw for the present Chief Minister N Biren Singh to leave Congress just before the 2017 assembly elections.
Biren never knew he would become the Chief Minister in a BJP-led government, but he saw in BJP a place where he could manoeuvre his political ambitions. It was the same thing with Govindas Konthoujam, but he had an eye to the top job. Govindas Konthoujam could not see a future of being a CLP leader while remaining in the Congress under the leadership of O Ibobi Singh. He never did openly revolted against the leadership of O Ibobi Singh, although he was the prime mover behind the scenes as he had the clout and of course deep pockets. His leaving the Congress, while being the serving state unit chief, is a reflection of the frustration faced by many leaders within the Congress, which also heralded the exodus while BJP waits with open arms. While it is true that the lure of being part of the ruling party with further prospects of remaining in power drives many to flock the BJP juggernaut, it is also the suffocating atmosphere within the Congress party which drives many of its MLAs and leaders to leave the party in search of fresh pastures.