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Blast in Imphal on Rahul-visit eve

Imphal, Dec. 9: A bomb exploded on the eve of AICC leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Manipur tomorrow, injuring two BSF jawans, who were passing through the area in a convoy.

Expectations are high as Rahul Gandhi is coming at a time when different communities are asserting their “rights” for self-administration and to protect Manipur’s boundary.

Police said a powerful IED, fitted to a Maruti van, exploded around noon near a temple at Koubru Leikha in Senapati district, nearly 25km north of Imphal city.

Two BSF jawans sustained minor splinter injuries and were treated at the sector headquarters at Korengei, on the outskirts of Imphal city.

The three-car convoy, possibly coming from Imphal and heading towards Senapati town, was passing through the area when the remote-controlled bomb exploded, the police said.

Rahul Gandhi will address elected members of local bodies in a convention and also the public at Hafta Kangjeibung in Imphal city tomorrow.

Deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, said about 3,000 elected members of the autonomous district councils of the hills, gram panchayats and zila parishads would attend the convention.

Rahul is expected to underline the role of the elected local bodies in implementing development projects, particularly the flagship programmes of the UPA government.

Rahul, accompanied by AICC’s Northeast in-charge Luzinho Faleiro, will arrive on a special aircraft. He would return to Delhi after the public meeting.

“Rahul Gandhi is the future Prime Minister. It is important for us that he is aware of all the issues and problems of Manipur. So we invited him for a visit,” Gaikhangam said.

The visit will mark the start of the Congress’s campaign in Manipur for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Elaborate security and traffic arrangements have been made.

Rahul is coming at a time when the Kuki State Demand Committee is demanding creation of a Kuki state while the United Naga Council (UNC) is seeking resumption of the tripartite talks between the UNC, Manipur government and the Centre on its demand for a separate administrative arrangement for Nagas living in Manipur outside the purview of the Manipur government.

On the other hand, citizens’ organisations in the valley had vowed to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur. Responding to an appeal by the UNC, Nagas in the hills held mass prayers for an early solution to the NSCN (I-M)-Centre talks and also in support of the demand for the alternative arrangement.

“The UNC expects an assurance from Rahul Gandhi that the Centre would soon find an early and honourable solution to the Naga political issue,” a source close to the UNC told The Telegraph.

Citizens’ groups here are also expecting an assurance by the Congress leader that the Centre would not disturb Manipur’s territory.

Official sources said Rahul would not meet any NGO representatives and was expected to concentrate on development activities during his speech.