Manipur Speaker disqualifies 4 MLAs, BJP wins Upper House seat

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Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi | Updated: June 20, 2020 3:54:56 am

CM Biren Singh arrives to cast his vote. (Photo: ANI)

Manipur Speaker Y Khemchand on Friday disqualified three Congress MLAs and the state’s lone TMC MLA ahead of the Rajya Sabha election.

With the disqualifications, erstwhile royal Leisemba Sanajaoba, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha candidate, was elected with 28 votes. The Congress—which earlier had the numbers to send its candidate to the Upper House—secured 24 votes.

The Manipur High Court had, in an order on June 8, disallowing seven Congress MLAs from entering the Assembly premises “unless and until” the petitions seeking their disqualification were decided by the Speaker.

“The Hon’ble Speaker… is directed to ensure compliance of this order by all concerned,” Justice K H Nobin Singh said. The HC had followed the March 18 decision in which it removed Manipur minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh, against whom similar disqualification petitions were pending before the Speaker since 2017, from the cabinet and restrained him “from entering the Legislative Assembly till further orders”.

Since then, Khemchand had brought forward the matter of disqualifications, which had been scheduled for June 22, to Friday.

After Congress MLA Paonam Brojen Singh— one of the seven facing disqualification—approached the HC on Thursday against Khemchand’s conduct, the HC instructed the Speaker to announce the disqualifications only after June 19, that is the day of RS election. Despite the HC’s instructions, Khemchand disqualified three Congress MLAs and one TMC MLA on Friday.

“Because he had filed a petition, Brojen Singh received protection from the HC and was allowed to vote today. He voted in favour of the Congress,” said a Congress leader, adding that the four MLAs who were disqualified were set to vote for the Congress.

The three other Congress MLAs allowed to vote went in favour of BJP.

The Congress complained to the EC that one of its MLAs voted for the BJP, and sought cancellation of that vote. The EC said, “…no interference from the Commission is warranted in the matter…”

On the announcement of disqualifications ahead of RS elections, sources in the EC said that the Commission “cannot interfere or interject as far as the Speaker’s power under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution are concerned”.

“This was blatant misuse of the Speaker’s office,” said central Congress observer Ajay Maken, who is in Imphal city.

Manipur has been tense ahead of RS elections, with three BJP MLAs resigning from the Assembly and party and crossing over to the Congress. Also, four ministers in N Biren Singh’s government, all MLAs of NPP, switched camps to lend support to the Congress.

With three BJP MLAs leaving their party, and support of the NPP MLAs and TMC MLA and an independent MLA, the Congress had 26 votes for the RS elections.

Former Congress CM Okram Ibobi Singh approached the governor seeking a special session to floor a no-confidence motion.

The 60-member Assembly has a current strength of 59 MLAs. The BJP now has 19 MLAs, and the support of an LJP MLA and four NPF MLAs.

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