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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.

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