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Manipur: Ibobi rubbishes BJP’s ‘double engine’ campaign

"There is a strong belief even among legislators that in small states like Manipur it will be beneficial if the same party forms the government at the Centre and the states," the 73-year-old veteran politician told UNI.

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Imphal: Rubbishing the BJP’s campaign theme that “double-engine governments” benefit the people, Congress leader and former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has said that it is the Central government’s duty to treat all states equally irrespective of which political party rules.

“There is a strong belief even among legislators that in small states like Manipur it will be beneficial if the same party forms the government at the Centre and the states,” the 73-year-old veteran politician told UNI.

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“It is a wrong belief. People should understand that the Central government should treat all state governments equally irrespective of whichever political party is in power.” Ibobi Singh, the longest-serving Chief Minister in Manipur, questioned the performance of the N Biren Singh government in Manipur and the Modi government’s sincerity in helping small states, especially in the northeast.

He said during his Chief Ministerial tenure, mega projects were taken up under the Special Plan Assistance (SPA) provided by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition in New Delhi. Among the massive projects taken up during the Congress rule were mini stadiums, hospitals, markets, residential complexes for government employees and the district Secretariat, he said.

“The Congress built a new Assembly complex, a High Court complex, three main women markets, international-level convention centres and transformed the Imphal airport into an international one. We also created seven new districts.” On the contrary, the Biren Singh government was unable to take up mega projects in the past five years.

“They only constructed a few women markets with a few crores of rupees.” Holding the Modi government responsible for the state of affairs, Ibobi Singh said: “The BJP government in Manipur had no means to take up mega projects as the funds flow to the state has got reduced under the BJP-led regime in the Centre”.

Ibobi Singh was the Chief Minister for 15 long years till March 2017. Under his leadership, the Congress finished as the single largest party in 2017 with 28 seats in the 60-member Assembly. But then Governor Najma Heptullah called the BJP to form a government after the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Party (NPP) legislators backed the BJP, which claimed the support of 32 MLAs.

Asked who would be the Chief Minister if the Congress wins the assembly elections, he replied: “The new Congress MLAs in consultation with the central leaders will choose a leader of the Congress Legislature Party”. The Congress has formed an alliance with Left parties and JD(S) and it will keep the doors open for like-minded parties after the election results are out, he said. During the 2017 campaign, the BJP made corruption a big issue.

Ibobi Singh pointed out that the BJP has not spoken on corruption this time. Ibobi Singh is contesting again from Thoubal and hopes to record his fourth consecutive win from there.

On the BJP’s charge that a large number of fake encounters took place during his tenure, he said: “We never told the police to shoot innocent people. We did whatever was needed to maintain law and order. Manipur is now getting the benefit of the work done by Congress to control law and order. People are able to move out freely without any fear.”

Countering the BJP’s allegations that Manipur was known for frequent strikes, bandhs and blockades during Congress rule, Ibobi Singh said: “One is tempted to ask whether such disruptive activities were instigated by the BJP.” He said the Congress wanted to know what the Modi government has done for Manipur.

“The Congress does not believe in self-appreciation unlike the BJP, which is resorting to self-praise all the time.” The former Chief Minister said elections for all local bodies were held during Congress rule as the party believed in grassroots democracy.

“But during BJP rule no elections for local bodies were held. The local bodies were administered by government officials”. He accused the BJP of trying to muzzle criticism and browbeat the media.

“During my Chief Ministerial stint, I always accepted criticism made in the media. No threat was given to the media for criticising the government unlike now when the BJP government files FIRs against all those who criticise its policies,” he said. 

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