2020: Political turmoil in Manipur amid battle against COVID

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Imphal, Dec 29 (PTI) Manipur witnessed political turmoil this year as the resignation of legislators of the ruling coalition placed the BJP-led government on a sticky wicket amid the northeastern state's fight against the COVID- 19 pandemic.

Four National People's Party (NPP) MLAs, including Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar Singh, resigned from the BJP-led government on July 17, citing 'mistreatment', plunging the N Biren Singh administration into crisis.

Three BJP legislators also quit the party and joined the Congress, while a Trinamool Congress lawmaker and an Independent MLA withdrew their support from the Biren Singh government.

The NPP legislators, however, retracted their move a week later following the intervention of party chief and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma. The TMC and Independent MLAs also returned to the ruling coalition.

The Congress, emboldened by the resignations, moved a no-confidence motion in the assembly against the Biren Singh government.

The BJP-led government, however, won the trust vote 28-16 during a special session on August 10.

Hours after the trust vote, six Congress MLAs including former chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh's nephew O Henry Singh resigned as MLAs and joined the BJP.

They cited a lack of confidence in the leadership of Ibobi Singh, the then Congress Legislative Party leader, blaming him for the party's failure to form the government in the state despite emerging as the single largest party in the 2017 assembly elections.

The six MLAs were among the eight Congress legislators who defied a party whip and were absent from the assembly during the trust vote.

By-elections were held for five vacant seats on November 7. The BJP won four constituencies and an Independent candidate bagged one seat. He later extended support to the saffron party.

The BJP-led government now has the support of 36 MLAs in the 60-member assembly, the effective strength of which is 53. There are 17 opposition MLAs in the House.

The BJP-led coalition candidate and Manipur's titular king Leisemba Sanjaoba bagged the lone Rajya Sabha seat in the state on June 19, securing 28 votes against the Congress candidate's 24 votes.

The state reported its first COVID-19 case on March 24 after a 23-year-old UK returnee tested positive for the infection.

A total lockdown was imposed and isolation wards in two government-run hospitals were used as COVID-19 treatment centres.

Manipur has reported 27,943 COVID-19 cases till December 25. The state now has 1,352 active coronavirus cases, while 344 patients have succumbed to the infection so far.

The state government established a centralised COVID- 19 Common Control Room under the Health Department to coordinate the fight against the pandemic.

More than 30,000 Manipur residents stranded in other states during the nationwide lockdown were brought back in a staggered manner by special trains starting May 10.

The state government had in February banned the import of packaged food from China and Southeast Asia that do not comply with FSSAI regulations and asked officials to keep vigil in the interest of public health.

International trade with Myanmar via Moreh was suspended in March and the border continues to remain sealed.

The state cabinet formulated the Manipur Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 on March 13, which made it mandatory for all hospitals to thermally screen patients and record their travel history.

The regulations made it mandatory for individuals or institutions to seek approval from the Health Department before disseminating information on COVID-19 through print or electronic media to prevent the spread of rumours. PTI COR ACD SK SK