The sensational revelation that Manipur Police Service (MPS) officer Thounaojam Brinda alleged that Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren pressured her to release Lhukhosei Zou a man accused of being a drugs kingpin and arrested with a huge consignment of contraband narcotic substance, dominated the headlines for much of the week. The affidavit was submitted before the Manipur High Court on July 13 but found its way into several newsrooms, which ran it as their banner headlines the next morning.
Brinda who is former Additional Superintendent of Police, Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) submitted her affidavit in connection with a suo moto criminal contempt case registered by the High Court against her and others following her Facebook post on the matter of granting three weeks bail to Lhukhosei Zou, the accused in a 2018 drugs smuggling case.
Brinda had criticised the judiciary, after Lhukhosei was granted bail by the special court of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, on Facebook.
Lhukhosei, when he was arrested, was the then serving chairman of the Autonomous District Council (ADC), Chandel district, and is also a local BJP leader.
The Morning Bell, morning daily did the more elaborate story on the affidavit’s content. According to their story, Brinda’s team had arrested Zou on June 19, 2018, along with seven others and seized 4.595 kg of heroin powder, 2,80,200 ”World is Yours” tablets, Rs. 57,18,000 in cash, Rs. 95,000 in old currency notes and several other incriminating articles.
The report quoted the affidavit in which the police officer said several BJP functionary, police brass and the chief minister himself, tried to intimidate her to set the arrested man free.
Congress Demands CBI Probe
Meanwhile Former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Okram Ibobi and President of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), Moirangthem Okendro have demanded that Lhukhosei’s case be handed over to the CBI and also sought the CM’s resignation on moral grounds.
In a widely publicized press conference, Ibobi said the case should not be handled by the Manipur Police, as the department’s head as well as their government bosses are implicated in the case. “It should be handed over to an independent agency like the CBI to find out the facts of the case. The state cabinet should take a decision on the matter,” Ibobi said.
Further, MPCC President Okendro said it is a very serious matter that the chief minister has pressurised the decorated lady police officer to do his bidding away from her line of duty.
The Manipur Pradesh Youth Congress Committee (MPYCC) on July 17 also staged a protest demonstration at BT Road demanding transfer of the case to the CBI and resignation of the CM.
Fresh Crisis Within BJP?
In yet another development, four Cabinet Ministers of the Biren government left Imphal for New Delhi on July 17 again raising speculations regarding goings-on in the present government. The news was aired prime time in all news channels and also made headlines of all newspapers published from the state. It also was the subject of evening discussions on all Cable TV channels.
Notably, the State Government has 12 Ministers including the Chief Minister. They include five BJP Ministers including N Biren, four NPP Ministers, two NPF Ministers and one LJP Minister.
All four BJP ministers with the exception of the chief minister, have left for New Delhi by an evening flight on Friday, July 17. They are Thongam Bishwajit, V Hangkhanlian, Thokchom Radheshyam and Nemcha Kipgen.
Earlier, a meeting of the BJP legislature party scheduled on July 15 at the Chief Minister’s bungalow was inconclusive due to the absence of some legislatures, including the four BJP ministers. However, when the meeting was again called next day at the party’s Nityaipat Chuthek office, all attended, giving rise to speculations of differences within the BJP.
After the meeting, BJP Manipur President, S Tikendra said the legislators had agreed to work together in the interest of the people, the party and the government.
BJP MLAs numbering 17 (excluding the Speaker and the three MLAs who had resigned from the party) attended the July 16 meeting. Newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba too attended the meeting.
Significantly, before leaving Imphal for New Delhi, the four ministers called on Governor Dr. Najma Heptulla. However, no details could be ascertained about the meeting of the ministers with the Governor.
Intensifying speculations, the meeting with the Governor comes amid reports that as many as 10 MLAs of the party had decided in a meeting on July 16 evening to press the party’s national leaders to replace Biren as chief minister.
The four BJP Ministers told the media at the airport before departing they would meet their party leaders and Union Ministers who are relevant to their respective portfolios. Maintaining that they would work in the interest of the state and the incumbent government, they said they would submit a detailed report on the current situation of the state government to Central leaders.
On being asked about the sensational affidavit submitted by former Additional SP, NAB Thounaojam Brinda at the High Court of Manipur, the BJP ministers maintained that the case should be decided by the High Court and their trip to Delhi has nothing to do with the drug smuggling case.