New Delhi: Welcoming the announcement of a two-phase Assembly election in the state by the Election Commission, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on Wednesday slammed the Union Home Ministry for its report to the poll watchdog that painted a grim picture of the law-and-order situation in the state.
Heading a delegation of ministers and MLAs from Manipur, the Congress leader reached the national capital on Tuesday to raise the issue with President Pranab Mukherjee, the EC and the party high-command.
Though the meetings were held as per schedule, the EC's announcement that Assembly polls in Manipur will be held in two phases (on March 4 and 8), unlike the last time, came as a relief for Singh who is eyeing a fourth consecutive term.
"We had suggested to the EC that the polls should be held in two phases. We are extremely happy and grateful to it for announcing a two-phase election in the state and hope that our party will win again," the chief minister said.
The announcement came when Singh was on his may to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Later, he met the President and Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the President, Singh rubbished the MHA report, submitted on January 2, saying it had "wrongly" concluded that the prevailing situation in the state was "grave" and "not conducive" to conduct a free-and-fair election.
"I am told that there is a negative report sent by the MHA to the EC that the law-and-order situation in Manipur is not conducive to conduct free-and-fair polls. It is totally wrong and baseless," he said.
The MHA had stated in its report that the ground situation in Manipur in the aftermath of the blockade of two national highways by the United Naga Council (UNC) and the state government's "failure" to restore normal traffic even after 60 days was "grave".
The chief minister said issues such as insurgency, blockades, strikes were not unique to Manipur but the entire north-east was affected by them and that even in 2012, the state Assembly polls were boycotted by hill and valley-based underground organisations, including the PLA and the UNLF.
"The Congress in particular is not allowed to hold public meetings. But, ultimately the people support the party. They gave it a thumping majority in the last polls and even this time, there will not be any problem," Singh said.
It is learnt that the chief minister has told the CEC that that the situation was not as alarming as reported by the MHA.
Congress' Manipur election in-charge Ramesh Chennithala, who accompanied Singh during the meetings, accused the BJP of "attempting to impose President's Rule in the state in the garb of the economic blockade and insurgency".
Meanwhile, rival Manipuri and Naga groups staged separate protests here over the tense law-and-order situation in Manipur due to the imposition of the blockade by the UNC, following the creation of seven new districts by bifurcating the existing ones....