Imphal, Nov 27 (UNI) Crisis within the Congress in Manipur deepened as about 15 MLAs, camping in New Delhi for almost a month, have decided not to come back till Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh was replaced.
The dissidents have left the decision of finding a new leader to the party High Command but hinted that they would not oppose the appointment of Th Debendra, the seniormost minister in the Cabinet.
Th Debendra, elected from Jiribam Assembly constituency, is the second most important member in the Ibobi government.
The Congress had secured 31 seats in the 60-member House in the elections held in February.
Ibobi Singh had already served a full five-year term as Chief Minister after winning the previous Assembly elections, which in itself was a record in Manipur. No other Chief Minister had held office for a full term.
Most Congress leaders felt that the Constitutional Amendment, restricting the size of the Ministry, and amendments in the anti-defection law had increased Mr Singh's power. As Manipur has only 60 MLAs, the size of the Ministry was restricted to 12.
Explaining the dissidents' move, Social Welfare Minister N Loken said the MLAs not given ministerial berths had joined the camp.
The first crack in the Ibobi government surfaced in March when Mr Singh inducted six Cabinet ministers.
State Congress president Gaikhangam was given the fourth position.
When the swearing-in ceremony was about to be held at the Raj Bhawan, he walked away.
Mr Ibobi Singh immediately called in Information Minister T N Haokip and Power Minister Phungzathang Tonsing to persuade him to participate. But Mr Gaikhangam was further piqued, when he was given the Health portfolio and later resigned.
The Chief Minister was accused of favouring Thoubal, his home district, and the rebel camp was triumphant when most of the Congress MLAs from the district gave their verdict against him.