| Congress MP Thangso Baite (left) with chief minister Okram Iboi Singh in Imphal on Friday. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, March 21: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today contradicted a claim made by rights crusader Irom Sharmila that he had invited her to join the Congress to jointly take up the issue of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
“I did not ask Sharmila to join the Congress. Forget about Sharmila I have never asked my wife or any family member to join the Congress. I let them take their own decisions,” Ibobi Singh told reporters.
On the day of her release on March 13, Sharmila repeatedly told reporters that Ibobi had visited her on February 4 and asked her to join the Congress.
Ibobi Singh, who was accompanying Congress MP Thangso Baite while coming to file the latter’s nomination papers, said he requested Sharmila to end the fast, come out of jail and work for improving the law and order situation so that the army act could be withdrawn from more areas.
This is the first time Ibobi Singh has reacted to the claim made by Sharmila, who has been fasting for more than 13 years demanding repeal of the army act.
Ibobi Singh did not show any surprise or anger when a reporter asked if he invited Sharmila to join the Congress.
Sharmila had said Ibobi Singh stormed out of her jail room when she raised the case of rapes committed by security forces instead of giving a response to his invitation to join the Congress.
Sharmila was taken back to jail the next day as she continued her fast.
A strong team of the Congress led by Ibobi Singh accompanied Baite when he came to file his nomination papers at the returning officer T. Ranjit Singh’s office located at the deputy commissioner’s office in Thoubal district today. T. Ranjit Singh is also the deputy commissioner.
Confident of retaining the seat, Ibobi Singh and his team, comprising deputy chief minister and home minister Gaikhangam, ministers and the party’s Inner candidate Thokchom Meinya Singh, were in a jubilant mood.
As the returning officer was examining the nomination papers, Ibobi Singh jokingly asked Baite whether the candidate had enough cash for the security deposit. Ibobi Singh also exchanged pleasantries with reporters present.
After the filing of nomination, Ibobi Singh said, “We will retain the seat. There is no party that can have a keen contest with us.” Baite said his priority would be conveying the wishes of the people of Manipur to the Centre and Parliament.
With Baite’s nomination, the number of candidates who have filed nominations for the Outer seat increased to five.
The four other candidates are Gangmumei Kamei (BJP), C. Doungel (NCP), Kim Gangte (Trinamul Congress) and Mani Charenamai (Independent). The filing of nomination papers for the Outer will close tomorrow.