The Bharatiya Janata Party-led N Biren Singh government won a facile trust vote in Manipur on Monday, with some astute political manoeuvering by the chief minister resulting in eight opposition Congress MLAs skipping the one-day session defying a party whip.
The 60-member House has an effective strength of 53, including Speaker Y Khemchand, who had the casting vote he could have used in the event of a tie.
Four members had been disqualified earlier and three of the BJP resigned sometime back.
The ruling coalition had 29 MLAs, including the speaker, while the Congress had 24, of whom eight abstained.
Biren Singh's victory was a foregone conclusion, but the absence of eight Congress MLAs made things easier for him.
A Congress leader said eight MLAs were absent when the motion was taken up for a vote, without giving their names.
He also didn't say if disciplinary action will be taken against them.
With this victory, Biren Singh, buffetted by a string of desertions in the party, appeared to have consolidated his grip on the ruling coalition which has 18 BJP MLAs, four each of National People's Party
and Naga People's Front, one each of the Trinamool Congress, Lok Janshakti Party and an Independent.
Having failed to pull down the government following the resignation of nine coalition MLAs in June, the Congress had given a notice of no-confidence motion against the Biren Singh dispensation following a controversy that the chief minister had allegedly pressured a police officer to release the kingpin of a drug racket.
The effort failed, and Biren Singh, by ensuring the absence of eight Congress MLAs during the crucial trust vote, exhibited that his he has friends beyond the political space occupied by the BJP and its allies.
The BJP is ruling all the eight northeastern states, either on its own or in alliance with its (North East Democratic Alliance) partners.
The Congress had submitted a notice of no-confidence motion against the government on July 28. Days later, the government submitted a notice to the speaker for a trust vote.
"The rules of business of the House clearly mention that if there are two separate motions on the same spirit of the topic, the one moved by the opposition and the other by the government, priority should be given to the government's motion. So, Congress will take part in the discussion," Congress MLA Keisham Meghachandra Singh, who submitted the notice, said.
During the discussion on the motion, the Congress raised issues like alleged pressure by the chief minister on police to release former Chandel Autonomous District Council Chairman Lhukhosei Zou, a former BJP leader, the spread of COVID-19 and non-availability of essential commodities during the lockdown.
The BJP-led government had plunged into crisis on June 17 following withdrawal of support by six coalition MLAs. Three BJP legislators also quit the party and joined the Congress.
However, four MLAs of ally National People's Party later returned to the coalition after Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda intervened to salvage the situation.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who is also the NPP supremo, along with the saffron party's pointsman in the northeast Himanta Biswa Sarma, also played an active role in defusing the situation.