Imphal, March 19: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tried to hard sell the Congress in Manipur today by saying that it was the only party that respected the idea, culture and belief of every individual.
Rahul, who was on a few hours’ visit to the state as part of his whirlwind election tour in the Northeast, addressed a mammoth gathering of more than one lakh at Wangjing Kodompokpi ground, 23km south of Imphal, in Thoubal district.
The crowd was slightly bigger than the Narendra Modi rally held in Imphal West last month but this was expected as the Congress is ruling the state for the third consecutive term. It has 42 MLAs in the 60-member House whereas the BJP does not have a single legislator.
Rahul’s 24-minute speech, including time for translation in Manipuri by sitting MP and Congress candidate for Inner Manipur Lok Sabha constituency Thokchom Meinya Singh, dwelt on the Congress’s role in the development of Manipur since it attained statehood in 1972. He promised speedy development of the state if the UPA comes to power for the third term.
The Congress is fielding both the sitting MPs. In the Outer seat, it is fielding Thangso Baite.
Taking a dig at the BJP, Rahul asked what the Gujarat model of development had got to do with Manipur, Meghalaya or Uttar Pradesh. “Only Manipur model should be in place in Manipur. You choose your model. You are capable,” he said.
“We are different from the BJP. We respect idea, culture and religion of each citizen while the BJP imposes its ideas on the people. The killing of Nido Tania was the outcome of the imposition of their idea,” Rahul said.
“We will defeat them (the BJP) because we have the support of the people,” he added.
In his attempt to woo women, who comprised more than half of the gathering at the rally, he said, “Manipuri women work harder than anyone in the country. But society does not give them power. We will love to introduce women like Mary Kom to Parliament and state Assemblies.”
Rahul mentioned the ongoing peace process with more than 20 militant groups of Manipur and withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from seven Assembly constituencies within the Imphal municipal limit. He, however, did not make any commitment to withdraw the act from more areas of the state.
Maibam Binodini Devi, a woman in the crowd, said, “He did not say anything new. But he appeared determined, committed and sincere about whatever he said.”
Rahul flew in a chopper from Tulihal Airport, 8km south of Imphal, to the venue, located under Wangjing Tentha Assembly constituency, and back. Wangjing neighbours Khangabok Assembly constituency, represented by Landhoni Devi, wife of chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, for two consecutive terms.