Amid the Manipur Speaker reserving verdict over disqualification of seven Congress MLAs, who sided with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Chief Minister N. Biren Singh appointed a "disqualified" former Minister as adviser, triggering criticism.
In a notification, here on Saturday, Chief Secretary J. Suresh Babu said, "The Chief Minister is pleased to appoint Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh as advisor who would enjoy the Cabinet Minister's rank."
Criticising the Chief Minister's move, Congress spokesman Ningombam Bupenda Meitei termed the action "illegal".
After hearing a disqualification petition moved by Congress leaders in March, the Supreme Court had stripped Shyamkumar of his office and barred his entry to the Assembly. At that time Shyamkumar was Minister of Forest & Environment in the BJP-led government.
On March 28, Speaker Y. Khemchand Singh disqualified Shyamkumar as member of the Assembly till the expiry of the House's current term (March 28, 2022).
Shyamkumar had won the 2017 Assembly elections on the Congress ticket. But he switched over to the BJP even before being sworn in as the Assembly member.
In a similar political development, the Speaker on May 8 reserved decision on the disqualification of seven Congress legislators, supporting the BJP-led government.
The Congress had moved the Supreme Court for disqualification of seven MLAs who helped the BJP after the 2017 Assembly polls to form the government. The ruling alliance was short of 10 MLAs for majority in the 60-member House.
"The Speaker is delaying his decision despite the Supreme Court's order to decide on the disqualification at the earliest. If necessary we would again approach the apex court," Congress spokesperson Meitei said.
The Congress had won 28 seats and the BJP 21 in 2017 Assembly elections. But the BJP formed the government with the support of Shyamkumar and the seven other Congress MLAs, apart from the National People's Party (NPP) and the Naga People's Front.
The NPP is headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma.
In another political development last month, Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Y. Joykumar Singh was stripped of portfolios after four NPP Ministers were asked to quit the BJP-led alliance government.
The development followed dispute between Biren Singh and Joykumar, a former Manipur DGP, over distribution of Covid-19 and lockdown relief.
The ongoing development in Manipur is likely to have political fallout since several MLAs of the BJP and its allies have been demanding a reshuffle of the Council of Ministers.