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Surjewala Alleges BJP Has 'Abducted' Independent MLA From Airport

The great muddle in Manipur continued for the second day on Sunday, with a dramatic twist. Even as both national parties are within striking distance of forming the next government, Randeep Surjewala of the Congress alleged that the BJP had ‘abducted’ an independent MLA and taken him to Kolkata.

Subhajit Sengupta, Tushar DharaSubhajitSG

Updated:March 12, 2017, 4:04 PM IST
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Surjewala Alleges BJP Has 'Abducted' Independent MLA From Airport
File photo of Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
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Imphal/New Delhi: The great muddle in Manipur continued for the second day on Sunday, with a dramatic twist. Even as both national parties are within striking distance of forming the next government, Randeep Surjewala of the Congress alleged that the BJP had ‘abducted’ an independent MLA and taken him to Kolkata.

Surjewala posted a series of tweets alleging that the BJP had ‘abducted’ the lone independent MLA Asabuddin from Imphal airport and had taken him to Kolkata. “BJP now misusing CISF and Airport authorities to detain and abduct Independent MLA, Asabuddin at Imphal, Airport and take him to Calcutta,” Surjewala tweeted.

Asabuddin, who is the lone independent MLA in the Manipur House, was being flown in from Guwahati by Congress minister Nasser and was reportedly 'intercepted' at Imphal airport. Sources told News18 that the exact sequence of events or what happened to him was not clear, but he claims he is now going to Delhi. A possible attempt by the BJP to win him over cannot be ruled out.

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The swiftly changing political actions in Manipur come a day after the Congress finished as the single-largest party with 28 seats in the 60-seat Assembly. The BJP emerged as the second-largest party with 21 MLAs, a first for the party in this northeastern state. The Congress is still three seats short of a simple majority. This is where the role of smaller parties and Independents becomes crucial for government formation in the hung Assembly. Together, they hold about 11 seats.

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A mandate to govern will ensure only a wafer thin majority for whoever forms the government. News18 spoke to sources in various political camps to piece together the possible permutations

— The Congress needs 3 MLAs to get simple majority.
— The BJP has 21 MLAs and needs at least 10 to form the government.
— Naga People's Front (NPF) has written a letter to the Governor stating that their four MLAs will not support any Congress government.
— Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has one MLA and has decided to go with the BJP.
— National People's Party (NPP) chief Conrad Sangma is in a huddle with his four MLAs to decide whom to support. Conrad Sangma's main rival in Meghalaya is the Congress and he is part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance.
— The Trinamool MLA, it is widely believed, will go with whoever forms the government. As he is the lone legislator, the party doesn't have much control over him.

Here are the possible scenarios:
— The Congress has elected Okram Ibobi Singh as the leader of its Legislature Party and may stake claim to form the government soon. The Congress is looking for the support of Asabuddin and the Trinamool MLA. This takes their tally to 30. The LJP decides to go with BJP, so the only non-aligned group left is NPP.
— Congress tries to induce the Naga Peoples’ Front MLAs to force the leadership to let them support Congress. If they can manage this, the Congress is home and dry. But that’s a big 'if'.
— BJP needs 10 more MLAs. Naga Peoples’ Front has already pledged support to non-Congress government. Lok Janshakti Party has assured support to BJP. This brings their tally to 26. If the National People's Party lends supports they will reach 30, two more than Congress, and can stake claim to form the government.
— Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, a BJP appointee, may then call the BJP to form the government. Once the government is formed, the BJP believes it will not be difficult for them to win over at least one of two MLAs.

But, whoever forms the government will have a wafer thin majority of one or two MLAs.

The BJP, going into the elections had said they will not align with the Naga Peoples’ Front. Some feel there could be resentment in the valley if BJP ties up with them. But some top leaders of the BJP feel this resentment can be smoothed over if they are able to keep their poll promise of removing the economic blockade of the valley once in power.

Even 24 hours after the results, both Congress and BJP government appear equally possible. But a strong BJP government at the Centre gives them a definite edge.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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