IMPHAL: In the clash between ruling Congress and BJP in poll-bound Manipur, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has successfully turned the State’s territorial integrity into the single biggest poll issue, compelling Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be on the defensive while addressing a rally in the Imphal valley on Saturday.
PM Modi reassured people that the Centre had not compromised on Manipur’s territorial integrity while signing the Framework Agreement or the Naga Peace Accord with the Isak-Muivah faction of Naga insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) in 2015 and said there was nothing in it that was detrimental to the interests of the State.
"I assure you that there is no single reference of ditching Manipur people or their interests in the Naga Accord. Now, it is up to you to believe me or your Chief Minister. The Congress is trying to divide Manipur by spreading lies to gain mileage in the polls," he said.
A contentious demand of the NSCN-IM is the creation of “Greater Nagaland” by slicing off the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, besides Assam and Arunachal. If the Centre accedes to the demand, Manipur will be reduced to less than one-fifth of what it is today.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi was quick to give a response. He said PM Modi’s comments on the issue of Manipur’s territorial integrity were mere “assurance”.
“The agreement was signed about two and half years ago. Why are they not revealing its contents to the people?” Ibobi asked at a press conference following the Prime Minister’s departure.
As polls draw close, the Congress has virtually whipped up an anti-Naga mood in the valley by raking up the Framework Agreement and polarising Meiteis (Manipuris), leading them into believing that Centre has compromised on Manipur’s territorial integrity. The Meiteis are non-tribals and they have a large majority in the valley, which accounts for 40 of the 60 seats.
Modi said the Congress, which has been ruling the State since 2002, had no right to be in power as it was making “brothers fight against each other”.
On the indefinite economic blockade launched by United Naga Council (UNC) in November last year, the prime minister said, "It is the responsibility of the state government to make available essential commodities. But the people here are not getting medicines and other commodities.”
"There is a blockade on the national highways for so many months, but no action has been taken. Congress is hand-in-glove with those who have resorted to the blockade. I told the state government that the Centre is ready to extend whatever help it required,” he added.
The State goes to polls on March 4 and March 8 to elect its 60-member Assembly.