Sonia asks dissidents not to hurt Congress in Manipur

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Imphal, March 13 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reported to have told 25 “dissident” legislators of the party in Manipur not to rock the party’s boat ahead of the assembly polls next year and work for the return of the party to power.

Gandhi did agree, rather vaguely, to their demand for sacking some ministers in the Okram Ibobi Singh government who have had little to show in terms of performance, a source said.

About 25 legislators of the ruling Congress were camping in New Delhi, seeking an audience with Gandhi. However, their “dissidence” has mainly to do with their desire to have a shot at a ministry in the state before it goes to polls next year.

For months, the dissidents have been demanding a major reshuffle so that they could be inducted into the cabinet and some of the current ministers dropped.

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One prominent legislator who is confident of getting a ministerial berth said, “We assured the party president of unflinching support to Ibobi Singh so that he becomes the chief minister for the fourth term”.

Another dissident told IANS on Sunday that they never demanded a change of leadership as they have full confidence in Chief Minister Ibobi Singh.

Yet another dissident, seeking anonymity, said Gandhi promised them that their demand that Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei be either dropped from the ministry or stripped of the post of the state Congress president would be looked into.

“Against the ‘one man one post’ policy, Gaikhagam has been the deputy chief minister with several important portfolios and PCC president all these years. Our party president has assured us to look into it,” he said.

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Sources close to Gaikhangam, however, told IANS that the party is unlikely to change the years old system when assembly elections are round the corner.

Dissidents target Gaikhangam, a Naga, for another reason: He was one of the Congress legislators who had signed in 2005 a memorandum demanding integration of the “Naga inhabited areas” of Manipur with Nagaland.

That could eventually become an excuse for the dissident Congress legislators to desert the party.

Thus the crisis in Manipur unit of the Congress is still looming.

Some of the dissident lawmakers had said the wind in the state now favoured the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and that they might be looking for greener pastures.

BJP state president Thounaojam Chaoba has been saying that many Congress members are approaching him for admission into the party. That may not be entirely an empty claim since politicians and retired bureaucrats of all hues have been joining BJP.

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Meanwhile, Ibobi Singh and Gaikhangam are maintaining a studied silence.

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