As Manipur goes to polls, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam speaks to Youth Street News and expresses confidence not only will the Congress come back to power for a fourth time but the BJP will not cross the two-digit mark. He is also confident that the economic blockade will be inconsequential and people will come out in large number to exercise their franchise. Excerpts.
Q. The Economic blockade will be intensified, so says the United Naga Council (UNC) ahead of polls. Do you believe the polling will go on smoothly and people will defy the blockade?
We are confident that nothing will stop people from coming out in large number to cast their ballot. In the first place, the blockade called by the United Naga Council is unconstitutional. It is
democratic to express your disagreement but this should not be done at the cost of holding people to ransom. A blockade of indefinite period is inhuman, anti-national and unconstitutional. It should be condemned by all right thinking citizens.
In any case, people are more than willing to come out and vote, no matter the blockade. Previous elections also, these elements tried to deter people by issuing heavy threats and intimidation but that did not stop people from voting. The United Naga Council is a mouthpiece of NSCN(IM) and this bandh is sponsored directly and indirectly by NSCN(IM).
Q. The Chief Minister has suggested that the Centre is not too keen to intervene in the blockade. He said that since the Central government is in peace talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-muivah) or NSCN(IM), they can easily put pressure on the United Naga Council to call off the economic blockade.
I totally agree with the Chief Minister's view. We have been requesting the Centre to intervene in this blockade, because this is directly sponsored by the NSCN(IM) who are in talks with the Central government. The ground rules of the talks are being violated by the NSCN(IM) and thus we hope that the Centre will intervene and take action against the people who are flouting the ground rules. There should be both seriousness and honesty on part of the Centre to take up the issue.
Q. UNC general secretary Milan Shimray has, however, blamed your government for failing to uphold past assurances about Naga's land. He alleged that in November last year, the Manipur government didn't send its representative to a tripartite meeting that was convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs. He has accused your government of wanting the situation to linger on. Your comments?
I can only call this funny. First of all, I like to categorically state that the land does not belong to any community but it belongs to the state. There is no land that particularly belongs to the Nagas or Meiteis or Kukis. It belongs to all of us. It is totally unfounded and incorrect when they say that the land belongs to them. It cannot be true under any circumstances. It is again unfounded and wrong to allege that the government is against peace or the return of normalcy.
The Chief Minister, who is the head of the state, works like a head of a family in fact, and he will never want to see his own house, his own family in disorder. We are strongly for peace, tranquility, unity and development.
As far as the first proposed tripartite talk is concerned, it was a communication gap. It was only on the day of the proposed meeting that the state government received information about the meeting. There was simply no time for us to go. This time again the Central government invited us to participate in the proposed talks, and we have sent two of our senior most officials of the state to join the talks in New Delhi.
In fact, the state government, in order to make an effort on its part to end the blockade, invited the UNC several times for a dialogue but they never showed up.
Q. There are allegations that your government bifurcated several of the hill districts in Manipur in order to boost the Congress party's image among the decisive Meitei voters and divert attention from the anti-incumbency factor?
This is so not true. It was purely on administrative conveniences that this decision was taken. It was taken to deliver quick development in far off regions. The fact is that demand for bifurcation of more Districts in the state has been going on for more than 40 years now. It is incorrect to say that the decision was abrupt. The decision was the outcome of thorough consultations done over a long period. We took this decision only after we were convinced that the bifurcation was in the best interest of the state and its people. As far as the existing unity among the people is concerned, that will not be hampered by this decision as everybody is happy. Only a handful who are biased and who want to disrupt peace, are against it.
Q. The BJP says that there is not enough infrastructure in place and hence the decision was ill suited. Your comments?
The BJP has only made a mere allegation, the truth is even when we attained full-fledged statehood, we were under obligation to do more. Achieving full development takes time. But I am confident that the basic requirements are there and there will be no problem at all in matters of running the administration.
Q. Five Congress MLAS have joined the BJP. The BJP is also said to be a top contender for forming the government according to an opinion poll in October. The polls showed BJP getting 31-35 seats in the 60-member Assembly while Congress' getting only 19-24 seats. Your comments?
I can only call this claim absurd and ridiculous. We are 100% sure that we will win absolute majority and form government for the fourth consecutive time. With due respect to the BJP, it will not even be able to cross two digits in Manipur. You can take my words; they will get four or five seats maximum. Even though they are making a lot of noise, they are an example of empty vessels making much noise.
Q. As a reply to the recent life-attempt attack to you by a group of rebels, what do you have to say?
It is not a new thing. I have survived many such life attempts. These people are anti-national and anti-social. It's in the hands of God to give or take one's life. By the grace of God and people, I have been winning elections for the past many terms. I have been working for the development. People are with me even though these antinational forces keep attacking me. I am living by people's faith in me. Justice and people's power will prevail.
I am not angry and I am not afraid of these anti-national forces. My only appeal to them is to shun violence and join the mainstream. Seek the path of peace and approach the people with humility. There is no substitute to humility. Bombs and violence can't win the elections. If they keep on resorting to violence, I will keep on winning. If they wish to dethrone me, they should do it humbly and peacefully.
In a democracy, people's mandate is a must. And it is the constitutional right of the people to choose their representative. If they want me to vacate the seat, I will do it. I will only vacate my seat, if they want to contest the elections in a democratic way. They are most welcome to contest the elections. They should realise their mistakes and join the mainstream. Participation in the elections means they have also accepted the Indian Constitution.