Despite strong opposition from a number of powerful and influential grassroots-based civil society organisations and cultural bodies of Manipur ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s nominee titular king, Leishemba Sanajaoba won the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Manipur on June 19 defeating Congress’s Tongbram Mangibabu amidst the political turmoil between the two parties following the withdrawal of nine MLAs’ support from BJP-led Nongthombam Biren’s government on June 17.
It may be mentioned that the civil society organisations and cultural bodies of Manipur pressed Leishemba Sanajaoba to not mix up the institution of the kingship with the Indian electoral politics. Further, they urged to abdicate the kingship if he would choose the Indian electoral politics.
Dramatically, BJP candidate, Leishemba Sanajaoba secured 28 votes, while Congress’s T. Mangibabu got 24 votes. Sanajaoba got the support of 18 MLAs from the BJP, 4 from the Naga People’s Front (NPF), 1 from Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and 3 from BJP supporter disqualification pending Congress MLAs and 2 cross-voting from Congress.
Leishemba Sanajaoba was made possible to sail through after Manipur assembly speaker Yumnam Khemchand had disqualified four of the seven MLAs elected on Congress tickets, who had earlier supported to BJP after the 2017 polls while the other three MLAs namely; Ngamthang Haokip, O Lukhoi and Ginsuanhao who have been supporting the BJP-led Government and its candidate Leishemba Sanajaoba, and Paonam Brojen who had earlier supported the BJP but returned to his original party were not disqualified.
Remarkably, the order of the more than three years old pending disqualification case had been issued only when the voting for the Rajya Sabha seat was about to begin. The Speaker had disqualified the three Congress MLAs namely Y Surchandra of Kakching AC, Ksh Biren of Lamlai AC and Sanasam Bira of Kumbi AC who had earlier supported the BJP led Nongthombam Biren’s Government and returned to their original party on June 17.
However, the speaker has saved the other three Congress MLAs namely; Ngamthang Haokip, O Lukhoi and Ginsuanhao who have been supporting the BJP-led Government and facing the same disqualification case with the other three disqualified MLAs and allowed to vote on June 19.
The disqualification of three of the 7 MLAs and allowing three others to vote were against the directives of the High Court. It may be mentioned that the Manipur High Court had on June 9 barred the seven MLAs from entering the assembly until the speaker took a call on the disqualification proceedings against them.
Khemchand had earlier fixed the date of conducting the proceedings regarding the disqualification of the seven MLAs on June 22. But on June 17, he had preponed the date to June 18 just before the date of Rajya Sabha election.
Significantly, on June 18, the High Court asked the speaker not to decide on their cases till June 19.
The Speaker had disqualified MLA Tongbram Robindro, too who was elected on All India Trinamul Congress (AITC) ticket and earlier supported Nongthombam Biren’s government but withdrew his support on June 17 and supported the Congress.
MLA Tongbram Robindro who was elected from Thanga Assembly Constituency, from where Congress Candidate Tongbram Mangibabu hails, on AITC ticket has been disqualified in an order dated June 18 even though he came to know only when the voting was about to begin that he had been disqualified.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA K Meghachandra alleged that the four MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker’s Tribunal in total contravention of the directive issued by the High Court of Manipur.
“I think Speaker Y Khemchand is no longer a lawful citizen of India as he defied the High Court’s directive and disqualified the four MLAs”, said Meghachandra.
Pointing out that Trinamool Congress MLA T Robindro was not facing any disqualification case, he went on to ask as to why and on what ground T Robindro was disqualified by the Speaker’s Tribunal all of a sudden.
Even as seven MLAs were facing the same disqualification case, the Speaker’s Tribunal adopted three different decisions and these decisions were highly discriminatory and biased, he alleged.
Meanwhile, MLA Paonam Brojen said, “Even though seven MLAs were barred from entering the State Assembly by a single bench of the High Court of Manipur, the same order was lifted by a Double Bench of the same Court. As such, I was also given the voting right”, Brojen said.
The Speaker Yumanm Khemchand has justified the disqualification and said, “… I have allowed three (Congress) MLAs and disqualified four under the Tenth Schedule of Constitution. This (decision) was pending,”
“There has been no violation of the Constitution and it was done according to the Constitution,” he added.
In contrast to what the Speaker claimed, INC candidate T Mangibabu expressed disappointment that the election was not conducted in a free and fair manner as advocated by the Election Commission of India.
“Rather, the election was held without any regard to rules and laws of the country as laid down in the Constitution,” he stated. He contended that of the seven defected MLAs, three were allowed to cast vote while the remaining four were not allowed to cast vote by disqualifying them.
“The act of the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly is shameful. It will not be good for the state,” he opined.
However, the BJP’s political manoeuvrings, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s Machiavellian approach and their Speaker’s divisive disqualification orders have made the titular king the lone Rajya Sabha MP from Manipur unprecedentedly.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics