The dissidence in the Congress in Manipur assumed a serious aspect on Tuesday when both Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his deputy Gaikhangam Gangmei left for New Delhi following party president Sonia Gandhi’s summons to them.
Gandhi last week met the representatives of the 25 dissident Congress legislators and later decided that the situation in Manipur should be prevented from becoming a repeat of Arunachal Pradesh where rebellion by Congress lawmakers brought down the Nabam Tuki government, said sources.
The dissidents have made it known that they would change loyalty, either by joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or forming a new party of their own, if their demands are not met, said the sources.
Ibobi Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Gangmei, who is also Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee president, refused to make any comment on the political developments in the state before leaving for New Delhi.
The dissidents are reported to have made two major demands in their meeting with Sonia Gandhi.
"First, we demanded dropping of those ministers who have failed to maintain transparency and whose performances are below the mark. Secondly, one man one post policy should be there. Gaikhangam should remain either as a minister or the PCC president," said one dissident legislator who declined to be named.
Gangmei has been holding the two posts for a long time. There are indications that he would be allowed to continue in the two posts till the next state assembly elections.
The dissidents have also made known their desire to be given a shot at a ministry before Manipur goes to the polls in February 2017.
Under the statutory provisions, in a 60-member assembly the chief minister is allowed to have a ministry of 12. To circumvent this rule, some prominent legislators have been appointed as parliamentary secretaries with cabinet rank.
"That is obviously not good enough for them. Almost all of them want ministerial berths," said sources.
At the time of forming his ministry in 2012 for the third consecutive term, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh assured the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) members that at the end of two and a half years, there would be a major reshuffle to accommodate some of them.
Ibobi Singh found that it was easier said than done.
"That promise was never kept," said one of the dissidents.
The incumbent ministers have been fire-fighting by promising sops to the dissident leaders.
The president of Manipur unit of the BJP, Thounaojam Chaoba, has been saying that a large number of Congress members are seeking admission in his party.
A dissident Congress member of the assembly told IANS after returning from New Delhi that he was very hopeful that the party president would do justice this time.
"It is now a question of the political survival of the majority of the CLP members," he added.