Naga MLAs demand ministerial berths to back BJP government in Manipur

Imphal, March 14: Nongthombam Biren, who is tipped to be the first BJP Chief Minister of Manipur, faces an unforeseen road block with the four Naga People's Front MLAs now demanding ministerial berths.The four have also demanded similar berths for four other Naga MLAs with important portfolios. On Monday, the Manipur unit NPF president Awangbung Newmai wrote an official letter to the BJP president in Manipur listing the demands.It said: "As per resolutions of the March 13 meeting of the Manipur unit of the NPF its four MLAs should be inducted in the council of ministers."The party demanded a cabinet berth for L. Daiko, who was elected from the Mao constituency. It said Awangbung Newmai, who was elected from the Tamei constituency, should be made a Parliamentary Secretary with portfolios of Hill and Tribal Development, Minor Irrigation and Works. Khasim Vashum, elected from the Chingai constituency, should be made a Parliamentary Secretary in charge of Planning and Public Health Engineering. K. Leishio, elected from the Phungyar constituency, should be made a Parliamentary Secretary in charge of Irrigation and Flood Control and Rural Development. In Manipur, a Parliamentary Secretary is of the rank and status of a Minister of State and usually given an independent charge.The NPF letter did not spell out what it will do if the demands are not conceded. The support of the four NPF MLAs is crucial to the BJP, which claims a strength of 32 in the 60-member House. Meanwhile, Okram Ibobi, who resigned as Chief Minister on Monday, is planning to rope in the four MLAs of the National People's Party and is still hopeful of forming the ministry. The Congress had secured 28 seats in the March elections.In another development, to the BJP which is trying to form a BJP-led coalition government in Manipur, a students' organisation, Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur (DESAM), has asked political parties not to take the support of lone independent MLA, Asabuddin. He was elected from the Jiribam constituency bordering Assam.He had defeated the Congress veteran Thoudam Debendra and others in the March elections. Addressing a press conference in Imphal on Tuesday, the DESAM leaders said, "As the people are demanding the implementation of the Inner Line Permit system to regulate the entry and stay of the non-indigenous people no political party should take support of this independent MLA. If any party ignores the sentiment of the people in the mad scramble for coming to power the party shall face boycott."This independent MLA had come to the limelight a few days back following a high political drama at the Imphal international airport. Minister Mohammad Nasir had personally gone to Jiribam to bring Asabuddin to Imphal. Yengkhom Surchandra, vice president of the state unit of Congress, said, "He had extended support to us. But he was abducted from the airport misusing the CISF personnel." Now Asabuddin is reported to be supporting the BJP. Supporters of the BJP and the Congress had assembled at the airport to take him to their respective offices but Asabuddin was spirited to Assam without allowing him to come out of the airport.In another development, the Congress party has incurred the wrath of the students and other activists when it had allotted ticket to Kharge Tamang in the Kangpokpi constituency for the March elections. Activists say that Tamang has not been able to produce documents to prove his Indian citizenship. Tamang lost the elections.