GUWAHATI: A newly-elected Manipur MLA, who could tip the scale either way, was untraceable on Sunday evening and the Congress alleged he was “abducted” by the BJP.
Independent MLA, Ashab Uddin, had landed at Imphal’s Tulihal airport from Guwahati. Soon after landing, he was allegedly detained by the CISF personnel on duty.
When asked by The New Indian Express, a CISF inspector at the airport first refused to give any comments saying “we have been given instructions” (by top officials) not to talk on the issue. On being pressed, he said the MLA was not detained and that the allegation was false. Later, the Congress alleged the MLA was “abducted” and taken to Kolkata by the BJP.
The party said Ashab Uddin had come from Guwahati along with the State’s agriculture minister Md. Abdul Nashir in the same flight. They alleged that he had remained incommunicado since then. The MLA’s mobile phone has been switched off for hours.
“Ashab Uddin had come along with our agriculture minister. When the two of them were coming out, the CISF segregated him and took him to a room. Later, when some people wanted to meet him, they were denied entry by the CISF,” Congress MLA Yengkhom Surchandra Singh told The New Indian Express.
“The BJP is playing such dirty games to wrest power. They are using the CISF to meet their political ends,” he alleged.
Surchandra claimed Ashab Uddin had on Saturday committed his support to the Congress over phone. After landing in Imphal he was to meet our leaders to pledge his support, Surchandra said.
He alleged that the BJP was also trying to poach the lone Trinamool Congress MLA, Tongbram Robindro Singh. The BJP leaders in the State were not available for comments, and calls made to several of them went unanswered.
The Congress had bagged 28 of the State’s 60 seats, three less than the magic figure of 31 as against BJP’s 21. The Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the National People’s Party (NPP) won four seats each while the Lokjanshakti Party (LJP) and the Trinamool Congress bagged one seat each. Ashab Uddin was the lone Independent among winners.
While Congress needs three more seats, BJP needs just one to be able to form the government. Together with the support of allies NPF, NPP and LJP, the BJP’s tally is 30, one short of 31. So, if Ashab Uddin lends his support, the BJP will be able to form the government.
The Congress has not lost hopes. Surchandra disclosed that the Congress was in touch with the NPP, the party from Meghalaya.
“The NPP’s Manipur leadership has already extended support to us. Even Meghalaya legislator James Sangma (son of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma) met chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh at his official bungalow on Saturday and extended support. But on Sunday the NPP held a meeting and we don’t know what transpired there. (Lok Sabha MP and brother of James) Conrad Sangma might have been lured by BJP Central leadership with cabinet berths etc,” Surchandra said.
The NPP is a bitter rival of the Congress in Meghalaya. With Assembly elections there due next year, it looks unlikely that the NPP will risk its prospects by aligning with the Congress in Manipur. The NPF and the LJP have committed their support to the BJP. But in the politically-unstable Northeast, there have been numerous instances when MLAs went against party decisions to realise individual aspirations.
Meanwhile, sources said the BJP would meet Manipur governor Najma Heptulla on Sunday night to stake its claim. Ibobi was on Sunday elected the leader of Congress Legislature Party. With 28 seats, the Congress emerged as the single largest party but BJP’s vote share was more than that of the Congress.