Imphal, Jan. 27: The Muslim community in Manipur has welcomed AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s decision to nominate former minister Haji Abdul Salam, a Congress leader from thecommunity, for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Manipur.
Salam, 66, filed his nomination paper to the returning officer, Y. Indira Devi, secretary of Manipur Assembly this afternoon. Twelve Congress legislators proposed his name.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, state Congress president and home minister Gaikhangam and party leaders were present when Salam filed the nomi- nation paper.
Earlier in the day, Ibobi Singh presided over a Congress Legislature Party meeting, which endorsed the AICC’s nomination of Salam. “The meeting was unanimous in endorsing the AICC’s choice of Salam’s candidature,” Ibobi Singh said.
Veteran Congress leader Rishang Keishing is the present Rajya Sabha member and his term would expire in April. Keishing, 94, represented Manipur in Rajya Sabha for two consecutive terms.
“We are extremely happy at the nomination of our leader for the Rajya Sabha seat. The Congress leader’s decision to choose a member of the minority community is a right decision and fulfilled our aspirations,” Maulana Jaheruddin, a Congress member from Thoubal district, said.
Salam, who hails from Wabagai constituency of Thoubal district, was elected to Manipur Assembly thrice and was cabinet minister for two times.
He did not contest the last state Assembly elections to concentrate on organisational works.
The Muslim community, having a population of about 3 lakh had demanded nomination of a leader of the community.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s decision and backing of Ibobi Singh and Manipur PCC president Gaikhangam’s support for Salam are seen as a move to reap electoral benefits from the community.
Winning the Rajya Sabha seat is not a problem for the Congress party in Manipur as the party has 44 members in a House of 60.
By choosing a Muslim leader for the seat the Congress hopes to win Muslim votes in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Manipur’s two seats in the Lok Sabha are represented by the Congress at present.
Despite having 44 members in the House, the ruling party will face a tough contest in the Lok Sabha election.
The Congress is fighting against twin threats from a resurgent BJP in Manipur and a “unified” 10 Opposition party candidate from the CPI.