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Willing to talk with UNC to end blockade: Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh

Imphal: Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said on Tuesday that he was ready for tripartite talks with the United Naga Council (UNC) to end the crippling three-month-long economic blockade.

He also accused the BJP of having a “tacit understanding with the UNC” and said the saffron party’s “gameplan” will fail in the March elections.

The land-locked state is witnessing an indefinite economic blockade by UNC since November 1, 2016 against the state government’s decision to create seven new districts by bifurcating the existing ones and upgradation of Sadar Hills to a full-fledged district.

Asked whether the state government is ready for tripartite talks with the UNC to resolve the ongoing crisis, Singh told PTI, “Yes, we are ready.”

Asked as to why the matter was not discussed with the UNC before bifurcating the districts, Singh said, “We tried to discuss, but they were not listening. We had to sit together but they did not respond when we invited them (for talks)”.

The chief minister refuted Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s charge that the blockade was a result of a “political conspiracy” hatched by the Congress government to divert attention from its “failures”.

On the Home Minister’s statement that Congress government did not use central forces, Ibobi Singh said, “If you go there you will see that womenfolk threatened by the NSCN (IM) are sitting on the highway. We cannot fire left and right to lift the blockade. The Centre needs to take steps,” he said.

The Centre wanted to create such a situation, he charged and added that, “If something goes wrong and if someone dies, they (Centre and BJP) will blame us and say that law and order has broken down in the state. They would take advantage of that situation”.

Supply of essential commodities including fuel in Manipur has been severely hit leading to exorbitant price hike of essential commodities after UNC declared indefinite economic blockade on NH2 (via Dimapur) and NH 37 (via Jiribam) – the two lifelines of the state.

The Centre and the BJP have a “tacit understanding” with the UNC, the chief minister charged.

“Recently Union minister Prakash Javedekar had said that if the chief minister resigns and President’s Rule is imposed, the economic blockade will be lifted in two days. This shows that UNC and BJP are hand in gloves with each other,” he said.

Exuding confidence that the Congress will return to power with a thumping majority in the coming polls, the chief minister said BJP’s “game plan” will fail in the elections.

On whether BJP was trying to topple the Manipur government by poaching on Congress MLAs, Singh said, “They will not succeed. You have seen what has happened in

Uttarakhand, they did not succeed”.

Meanwhile, Manipur State Congress President T N Haokip alleged that BJP had tried to poach 20 Congress MLAs but managed only five-six of them.

Polling for the 60-member Manipur Assembly will take place in two phases on March 4 and March 8.

In the last Assembly polls, the Congress had won 42 seats and Okram Ibobi Singh was re-elected the chief minister of the state.

PTI