Imphal, Nov 27: Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh's efforts to resolve the internal crisis in the Congress have failed yet again as about 15 MLAs, camping in New Delhi for almost a month now, have resolved not to come to the state until Mr Singh was replaced by a senior leader.
The dissidents, however, refused to propose the name of a leader and left the decision to the High Command to appoint a new leader. The rebels also hinted that they will not oppose the appointment of Th Debendra, the seniormost minister in the Cabinet and the second most important member in the Ibobi government.
Th Debendra was elected from Jiribam Assembly constituency.The Congress had secured 31 seats in the 60-member House in the elections held in February. Mr Singh had already served a full five year term as Chief Minister after winning the previous Assembly elections which itself was a record in Manipur.
No other Chief Minister had held office for a full five year 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 move of the dissidents, state Social Welfare Minister N Loken alleged that the MLAs, who were not given ministerial berth, had joined the rebel camp. The first crack in the Ibobi government was witnessed in March when Mr Singh inducted six Cabinet ministers.
State Congress president Gaikhangam was given the fourth position and when the swearing-in ceremony was about to be held at the Raj Bhawan in Imphal, the Congress president walked away.
Mr Singh immediately called in state Information Minister T N Haokip and Power Minister Phungzathang Tonsing to persuade the Congress president to participate in the swearing-in ceremony.
However, Mr Gaikhangam was further piqued when he was given the Health portfolio and later resigned.
Mr Singh was accused of favouring the Thoubal district, his home district, and the rebel camp was triumphant when most of the Congress MLAs from the Thoubal district gave their verdict against the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, bureaucrat-turned-politician Y Surchandra, who was elected for the first time from Kakching in Thoubal district, earlier an Ibobi supporter, suddenly changed side and became the spokesperson of the rebels.
The chief whip of the Congress, Mr T Mangibabu, also joined the rebel camp following the wedge within the Congress legislators.
The longest serving Manipur Chief Minister, Rishang Keishing, now Rajya Sabha MP, has also spoken out against Mr Singh.
Mr Surchandra alleged that the Ibobi government had failed to control the law and order situation and most appointments in the government were being made through wrong means, as most of the recently appointed candidates were from the constituencies of the Chief Minister and his wife.
Mr Singh was also accused of centralising all power to himself as he holds ten important portfolios, including the Home and Finance portfolios.
The rebels also discussed the issue with Congress leaders from the Centre, especially Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil.
Senior state Cabinet Minister Th Debendra, who has not yet broken his silence on the issue, also rushed to New Delhi to meet Central leaders.
Meanwhile, state Congress president Gaikhangam, who is supporting the rebel camp, will meet Ms Sonia Gandhi later today.The rebels were also expecting support from at least two Cabinet Ministers. The Ibobi government was also accused of not discussing the facts openly and revealing the situation to the media. Besides, most Congress MLAs alleged that they were unable to get an appointment with the Chief Minister.