Rebel threat mars Manipur polls, Congress faces ban

IMPHAL, January 7 (Agencies): Over the years, disturbances caused by militants during polls, ranging from shootouts to bomb explosions, have become a given in insurgency-hit Manipur. The people of the state, even while fearing for their lives and property, have learnt to live with this and have no option but to wait for the polls to pass.

The threat of rebels hangs over the ensuing crucial tenth state assembly polls slated for January 28 as well. To thwart any disturbances during the polls, over 350 companies of central paramilitary forces, in addition to the available state police forces, would be pressed into service.
Amid the ongoing hectic poll canvassing, a large number of rebel outfits, besides issuing different diktats on the people’s democratic process, have also begun lobbing grenades at the residences of aspiring candidates, mostly Congress legislators and ministers and the party’s offices.
On Wednesday, the coordination committee of seven militant outfits of Manipur, CorCom, put an indefinite ban on Congress, giving a big blow to the ruling party. Despite beefing up of security in the state in view of the rebel threat, Congress is carrying out its poll activities on a low key with many party workers cutting down on house-to-house campaigns and meetings.
CorCom said the ban has been imposed to denounce the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress’s stance against the people of the state and their revolutionary movement. It said no one should contest on a Congress ticket and nobody should join poll-related events – meetings, house-to-house campaigns, feasts, erection of makeshift camps – of Congress.
Pradesh Congress Committee president Gaikhangam said underground outfits issuing poll diktats is not a new thing. Adding that banning a particular party is ‘very unfortunate’, Gaikhangam appealed to the concerned body not to “disrupt the democratic process to ensure that people can vote for their choice of candidates without fear.”
“The ban on the Congress is not in the interest of the people. We also think the authorities concerned will do the needful to ensure the election passes off smoothly,” a visibly emotional Gaikhangam said on Friday afternoon minutes after he named the party’s nominated candidates for all 60 seats in the state. The chief election commissioner (CEC), SY Quraishi, who is well aware of the insurgent outfits’ mounting threat, said adequate security would be provided to ensure the polls are conduced smoothly.
CorCom, which comprises KCP, KYKL, PREPAK, PREPAK(Pro), RPF, UNLF and UPPK, issued a joint statement saying no individual or transport association should lend vehicles to Congress candidates, and added that those defying the ban would be punished. It also appealed to people not to raise any protests against CorCom’s campaign.
A few days ago, jailed United National Liberation Front (UNLF) chairman R K Sanayaima aka RK Meghen had stated that plebiscite should not be used as a political issue in the election, while the Maoist Communist Party (MCP), Manipur boycotted the polls. The UNLF, which is fighting to restore Manipur’s past sovereignty, has already proposed to New Delhi to hold a plebiscite under the aegis of the UN to ascertain whether the state should remain part of India or not. Various central leaders flatly rejected the plebiscite proposal.
Meghen, who is currently being probed by the NIA in its special court at Guwahati, said it was not compatible to raise the plebiscite agenda in the polls held under the Constitution of India. Speaking to reporters before he was produced at the NIA special court in Guwahati about 10 days ago, Meghen exhorted the people of the northeast to unite so as to make the call for plebiscite more significant. He added periodical elections in Manipur are nothing but a festival and during such times, gun power, money power, muscle power and intoxicants were abused widely.

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