THE SEARCH AND MAKING OF A CHIEF MINISTER


By Usham Dhananjoy Singh
This article was originally published by the Sangai Express on 28 Nov 2008

The election to the Manipur State Assembly began on 11th June 1948 and continued upto 27th July 1948. Out of the 53 seats, 30 seats were for the valley, 18 seats for the hills, 3 seats for the Muslims and 2 seats for the professional groups. In the election that followed, Krishak Sabha won 6 seats, Congress 14 seats, Prajashanti 12 seats and 18 seats were won by the Hill men. Praja Shanti formed a coalition Govt with the support of the Krishak Sabha and the Hillmen. In the given situation Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh did not even confide his own brother, MK Priyobarta Singh who was a potential claimant to the post of Chief Minister. The other claimants to the post were Sanasam Gourahari Singh, Maharaja's Private Secretary and Rajkumar Setu Singh.


Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh consulted six astrologers and his own pandit Loishang before deciding upon October 18, 1948 as the most auspicious day for the first meeting of the Manipur State Assembly. But, the delay also had something to do with Maharaja's behind the scene move inter alia to induct Mr Pannalall, ICS (retd) George Town Allahad as his advisor or Chief Minister.

On 23.7.1948 Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh wrote a letter to Mr Pannalall I.C.S (Retd) which runs as follows: 'This may carry you back to the old memories while you and I were in Benaras. I can never forget the close association of our lives."

"I had long expected to avail myself of your services in my State but no occasion presented themselves. Now since I have to promote my State to a happier and progressive state by efficient economic planning and better organisation of State administration I require your service for some time..."

On 5.8.48 he sent another letter to Mr Pannalall. An extract:
"I shall be grateful if you will please pluck some of your precious time to visit my place. If it is not feasible offhand I would like you to state the terms and conditions of service in case you become my advisor or Chief Minister. I wish to get the benefit of your service. Even if you cannot accept any service here I will be highly glad in case you be a guest of mine for a few days. If you yourself and your Jamai who is also an ICS are not available. I further request that you will please arrange to procure another ICS who will be taking no less interest than you in my cause. At all events I shall consider myself fortunate if I could avail myself of your own services".

In reply D Pannalall, Member Linguistic Provinces Commission wrote a letter to the Maharaja on 3.8.48, an extract of which runs as follows: '... 'I should have been very glad to come to your assistance if I was free but as it is, the work I have in hand will take me several months and I must not leave it as it is of great national importance... My only son is holding a high office in the Govt of India. My three sons-in-law are also holding very high posts - one in the IFS and two in the ICS'.

The Maharaja sent a telegram dt 7.9.48 to Mr Pannalall to see either Pannalal or one son-in-law immediately. However Mr Pannalall wrote a letter to the Maharaja on 5.10.1948. An extract:

"I am really sorry that I am unable to oblige your highness by coming myself to your assistance or to send one of my sons-in-law. They are both busy with important work ... I hope you will understand and excuse me for being unable to oblige you by coming to Manipur."

Thus the search of an outsider as the Chief Minister came to naught. Now search began from among the Manipuris particularly the three main contenders namely MK PB Singh, Sanasam Gourahari Singh and RK Setusana Singh.

The Maharaja inaugurated the new assembly on 18th October 1948 but it failed to elect six Ministers and so the Chief Minister could not be appointed to complete the Cabinet.

The Maharaja of Manipur vide order no. 40 P of 1948 dated 10-11-48 appointed the following gentlemen as Ministers on the Manipur State Council with effect from the date on which they take over charge.

  1. Arambam Ibotomcha  BA, BL
  2. Dr N Leiren 
  3. Major R Khathing BA, MBE, MC
  4. Sjt Ayekpam Gourabidhu 
  5. Mr Teba Kilong
  6. Md Alimuddin


Ministers designate Mr R Khathing wrote a confidential letter No. K/04 dated 14.11.48 saying that in his humble opinion Maharaja Kumar Priyobrata Singh was the fittest man for the Chief Minister of Manipur State. He listed the following reasons in favour of PB Singh:

  1. He is of royal blood as such commands respect from all people of Manipur high or low
  2. He will always look for the interest of your highness and the State ...
  3. He has now got a good working administrative knowledge and experience of State...
  4. He commands respect from people outside Manipur as well...
  5. MK PB Singh's becoming the Chief Minister will also save the State the Dewan's pay.


Minister designate Mr Teba Kilong wrote a confidential letter in favour of PB Singh as he possessed requisite i) Educational qualification ii) Personality iii) Popularity iv) Experience v) Foreign contact and vi) Morality.

Mr A Ibotomcha Singh, Minister designate wrote a letter to the Maharaja on 16.11.48, an extract from an English rendering runs as follows:

"There are two candidates before us. One is your highness's own younger brother MK Priyobarta and the other the private secretary. Both of them are not MLAs. Apart from being not an MLA, if the Maharaja Kumar is appointed as CM, a minority section of the Hill MLAs may withdraw their support from Govt part... In case your Highness's private secretary is appointed (as CM) a majority section of Hill MLAs may withdraw their support resulting in this case also a failure of the Govt party... Therefore to avoid unnecessary headache from the opposition and to keep both sections of the Hill MLAs together for the sake of a State Govt, I request your highness to appoint the Chief Minister from among the MLAs..."

A. Gourabhidhu Singh another Minister designate also sent a confidential handwritten letter dt 22.11.48 to the Maharaja an English rendering runs as follows:

"I propose to your highness Mr RK Setusana for the Chief Ministership. Earlier I proposed Mr Sanasam Gourahari Singh because as a member of the Praja Samiti Sabha I adhered to the party discipline". Dr Lairen Singh also vide a confidential handwritten letter dt 22.11.1948 recommended RK Setusana Singh BA to be the candidate of the Chief Minister as he thinks him to be an experienced and ableman.

R Khathing vide letter dt. 22.11.48 expressed his choice of MK Priyobrata Singh as the Chief Minister of Manipur State on the following grounds:
i) His administrative experience of the State
ii) His personal influence outside and inside Manipur as the prince and younger brother of His Highness
iii) His honesty and faithfulness to duty
iv) Appointing MK PB Singh as CM will also mean saving the pay of a Dewan by the State
v) No one in the State will be able to take up the question of external affairs as effectively as MK PB Singh.

Md Alimuddin by his confidential letter dt 22.11.48 nominated Mr RK Setu Singh to be Chief Minister of Manipur State.

On 16.11.48 the hill leaders viz. R Suisa MLA, SL Lunneh MLA, L Kampu MLA and others wrote to the Maharaja that they were in favour of the person for CM who was recommended by the Majority of Praja Samiti.

Ministers designate Sjt A Ibotomcha Singh, BA, Dr N Leiren Singh (3) Sjt A Gourabhidhu Singh (4) Md Alimuddin (5) Major R Khathing (chairman) (6) Mr Teba Kilong held a meeting at the palace office on 24th November 1948 at 8 am and it was resolved that HH the Maharaja of Manipur State be requested to appoint the Chief Minister in the light of individual opinion of the Minister designate submitted twice.

Sir Akbar Hydari, Governor of Assam vide letter dated 28.11.48 wrote to the Maharaja that as Maha-rajkumar Priya Brata has been appointed Chief Minister after securing a majority of 4 as against 2 under the circumstances his advice on that point was no longer required. He was very glad of the Mah-arajkumar's appointment.

The Maharaja Bodhachandra in exercise of the powers conferred by section 10(e) of the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 appointed Maharaj-kumar Priyobrata Singh, BA to be the Chief Minister of Manipur State Council.

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