Five of the six Janata Dal (United) MLAs in Manipur on Friday joined the Bharatiya Janta Party, Assembly Secretary K Meghajit Singh said in a statement, reported The Hindu.

K Meghajit Singh said that Speaker Thokchom Satyabrata Singh was happy to accept the merger of the legislators. The MLAs are Kh Joykishan, N Sanate, Mohammed Achab Uddin, LM Khaute and Thangjam Arunkumar.

The lone Janata Dal (United) who did not join the BJP is Mohammed Nasir.

Since more than two-third of the party MLAs have switched sides to the BJP, the decision is considered valid under the anti-defection law.

The Janata Dal (United) had won six seats in the 60-member Manipur Assembly this year and extended their support to the BJP government led by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh.

Janata Dal (United) chairperson and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar criticised the BJP, alleging the party of poaching MLAs, reported PTI.

“Is it proper? Is it constitutional? Is it in line with established norms?” he asked reporters. “They are doing so everywhere. Hence all parties must unite in 2024 for a positive mandate.”

The Opposition Congress announced on Saturday that it will challenge the merger in High Court, claiming that it violates the provisions of the anti-defection law, reported The Hindu.

“Joining the JD-U MLAs to BJP is not only unconstitutional, but the act also attracts disqualification under the Constitution of India,” Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei tweeted. “There will be a move to the High Court to disqualify them. Save the Constitution, Save Democracy.”

This is the second time the Janata Dal (United) MLAs have joined the BJP in the North East, reported NDTV. In 2020, six of seven legislators of the Nitish Kumar-led outfit had joined the BJP in Arunachal Pradesh. The lone MLA also joined the BJP last week.

The development came after on August 9, Kumar severed ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in Bihar. A day later, Kumar took oath as chief minister of Bihar for the eighth time with support from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and six other parties of the Grand Alliance.

Relations between the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) had soured in Bihar because of disagreements between them over a host of matters such as a proposed population control law, caste census, demand for special category status for Bihar and the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.

On Saturday, BJP MP and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted that after Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur has been freed of the Janata Dal (United). He added that the BJP would now also make Bihar Janata Dal (United) free.

Rajiv Ranjan Singh, the national president of the Janata Dal (United), retorted that his party had won the seats both in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur by defeating BJP leaders.

“So don’t daydream of liberation from JD(U),” he added.

In another tweet, Singh said that the development in Manipur has again unmasked BJP’s moral conduct.

“You [Sushil Modi] must remember that in 2015, the Prime Minister held 42 meetings, only then 53 seats could be won. In 2024, the country will be free from [BJP’s] rhetoric.”