The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday (June 23) summoned senior Congress leader and former Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh in a corruption case, hours before the BJP flew four MLAs out of the state.
These MLAs had earlier withdrawn support from the NDA government, plunging the state into a political crisis.
All four MLAs are from the National People’s Party (NPP), who had earlier sought to pull the plug off the N Biren Singh-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government by switching over to the Congress camp.
BJP spokesperson Ch Bijoy Singh neither confirmed nor denied the development. The other BJP and NPP leaders too are tight-lipped about the development.
Highly placed sources in the BJP said the four were taken to Guwahati from where they were flown to New Delhi to meet Union home minister Amit Shah.
Meanwhile, the CBI has asked Ibobi Singh to appear before it on Wednesday for questioning in connection with an FIR lodged in November 2019 for alleged misappropriation of government funds worth ₹332 crore.
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CBI sources in Guwahati said a team of the investigation agency had already reached Imphal to question the former chief minister.
The CBI had taken over the case on November 20 last year on the request of the state’s BJP government. It is alleged that Singh conspired with others during his tenure as the chairman of the Manipur Development Society (MDS) from June 2009-July 2017, and misappropriated government funds worth approximately ₹332 crore out of ₹518 crore that was entrusted to them for the purpose of executing development work, according to the officials.
Along with Singh, the CBI has also named three former MDS chairmen — D S Poonia, PC Lawmuknga, O Nabakishore Singh — all retired IAS officers. Y Ningthem Singh, the former project director of the society, and S Ranjit Singh, its administrative officer have also been named in the FIR. Other accused will also be called for questioning soon.
The CBI had registered the case on the Manipur government’s request, which was routed through the Centre.
The summon was issued barely four days after the Congress staked claim to form the government under Ibobi Singh as nine MLAs, including three BJP and four NPP legislators had withdrawn their support to Manipur’s first ever BJP-led government.
In a counter move, the ruling alliance pulled a coup of sorts in the election for the lone Rajya Sabha seat by ensuring victory of its nominee Leishemba Sanajaoba on Saturday (June 20). Cross-voting of two Congress legislators, including Ibobi Singh’s nephew, who too is facing a CBI case, helped the BJP candidate to clinch the victory.
The NPP legislators, however, voted against the BJP candidate.
To bring them back to its fold, the BJP on Monday (June 22) rushed its main troubleshooter in the Northeast, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. He, along with NPP chief and Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma, had several rounds of meetings to persuade the four legislators to change their mind.
After the four reportedly softened their stand, Sarma took them to Guwahati in a chartered plane this evening.
Before leaving Imphal, Sarma ruled out any threat to the BJP-led coalition government. Within a couple of days, the impasse would be resolved, he told media persons.
Meanwhile, the Congress is still exploring legal options.
(With inputs from David Mayum and PTI)