Three Manipur Ministers Sacked

In a significant move, seen as one that has been made primarily to pre-empt a split in the Congress party in Manipur, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh today sacked three ministers for indulging in \\"anti-party activities\\". The decision to sack the three ministers--Chungkhokao Doungel, cabinet minister for forest, environment and tourism, and ministers of state for excise and jail administration, and school education, Wungnaoshang Keishing and L Radhakishore respectively--from the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front government was announced at a hurriedly called press conference at the chief minister\\'s residence this afternoon. The three were in the process of floating a new party called the Progressive Congress Party and were trying to get other members of the Congress to cross over, the chief minister said.

Today\\'s developments have brought to the surface a long-standing feud within the Congress party, which, most believe may not, however, be sorted out with the chief minister\\'s present attempts to quell dissidence in his party. Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Vidyapati Senjam in a statement also said that the party had, based on the recommendation of its disciplinary action committee, decided to expel the three from the primary membership of the party for six years. What remains unclear at this stage is the number of MLAs who may finally cross over to the new party.

The move to split the Congress in the state had been under way for some time now, Singh said, alleging that Keishing had even been trying to buy out members of his party. According to reports, Doungel is expected to take over as the president of the new party with Keishing as its general secretary. While Doungel and Radhakishore were not available for comment, Keishing, when contacted, said he was not aware of his suspension from the party. The charges levelled against him were \\"baseless\\" he added.
Keishing had earlier ignored the Congress high-command\\'s instructions asking him to refrain from anti-party activities, refusing to even meet the AICC general secretary in charge of the North-east, Shambhu Srivastava, who had been deputed to convey the party\\'s displeasure with the developments in the state unit. Shambhu, who has been camping in Imphal for the past three days, has expressed \\"serious concern\\" over the dissidence in the Congress in the state.

Reacting to the developments in the ruling front, president of the opposition Manipur People\\'s Party Okram Joy said the sacking of the three ministers this afternoon was an indication of the imminent downfall of the Ibobi-led government

By Sobhapati Samom (newsfiledelhi@rediffmail.com)