| Imkong L. Imchen |
Kohima, Feb. 20: A court in Wokha today granted interim bail to former home minister Imkong L. Imchen and the Election Commission ruled out his disqualification as a candidate in the Assembly election scheduled for Saturday.
Imchen, who was set free by 2pm, left for his Koridang constituency in Mokokchung district at 2.20pm. His close aide said from Wokha that he had been granted interim bail till March 15 on health grounds.
The former home minister had been arrested on Monday evening after the Assam Rifles found a cache of arms, Rs 1.10 crore in cash and liquor in his vehicle near Longsa village, 6km from Wokha town, in the morning while he was on his way to his constituency.
Sources said he was lodged at the police guesthouse at Wokha as there was no separate cell for a VIP at Wokha police station. Imchen had resigned as the home minister of Nagaland late on Monday night.
Imchen’s party, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), said the Election Commission had given him a clean chit stating that there was no ground to disqualify him from contesting.
However, Janata Dal (United), the NPF’s partner in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland which is contesting from three constituencies in the state, expressed surprise on how the home minister could carry with him seven unlicensed guns and a huge amount of cash.
The party’s national general secretary, Anil Kumar Srivastava, said the law would take its own course. “I am not giving a clean chit to any party,” he added.
Criticising the use of money and militants by political parties to win elections, Srivastava said there cannot be free and fair elections in Nagaland at this stage.
He accused the Congress, which is in the Opposition in the state, of using militants to issue threats and intimidation to non-Congress candidates. He also accused the Congress of using central paramilitary forces and other agencies to corner non-Congress parties.
“We have observed that central agencies, paramilitary forces and the Assam Rifles, all of which are under the home ministry, are biased in favour of the Congress in Nagaland,” the JD(U) leader said. He demanded action against the Congress.
The JD(U) has lodged a complaint with the chief electoral officer against threats and intimidation issued by militants to its candidates.
The Congress criticised the release of the former home minister, saying the protector of law had broken it and it was unfortunate that instead of being booked under the National Security Act, Imchen had been granted interim bail.
“He should have been booked under NSA,” PCC general secretary (administration) Medokhul Sophie said, adding that the same yardstick should then be applied to all the citizens of the state.
“All should be treated equally,” he said, adding that his party would pursue the matter so that justice is delivered to all sections of people.