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Army act to stay: Ibobi

- CM says party wants law repealed, but not yet

Imphal, April 4: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today said the current situation in the state was not conducive to withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Several political parties — including the BJP, the Naga Peoples Front and the Left and Secular Alliance — have promised to either withdraw or repeal the army act from Manipur in their election manifestos.

Reacting to this, Ibobi said: “We should all try and understand the present situation in Manipur and also the threat to the unity of the country and the state. We need to normalise the situation first before withdrawing the act.”

“They (the opposition parties) are now only making promises. We have started implementing such promises (by withdrawing the act from seven Imphal municipal limits),” Ibobi Singh said.

The AICC released its manifesto on March 26 but the ruling Congress in Manipur has not come up with its own manifesto yet, although voting for the Outer Manipur seat is only five days away.

Elections for the Outer Manipur seat will be held on Wednesday while Inner Manipur polls will be held on April 17. Ibobi Singh’s remark is expected to anger citizens’ groups that had brought out their own manifesto, titled the “People’s manifesto”, that put repealing the army act at the top of the agenda.

Ibobi Singh reiterated his appeal to rights crusader Irom Sharmila to end her 13-year-old hunger strike and extend support to the government’s effort to normalise the situation in Manipur so that the army act could be withdrawn.

“We are for withdrawing the act. But the situation needs to improve first. People should join hands to improve the situation in the state,” Ibobi Singh said.

He also appealed to militant groups to come forward and discuss the problems with the government. “I honestly believe that if there is a problem, there is also a solution. Let’s sit down and talk, resolve the differences and together bring peace and development in the state,” Ibobi Singh said.

The merger of the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) with its five MLAs with the Congress yesterday has made the party more confident of retaining both the Outer Manipur and Inner Manipur seats.

“We now have 47 MLAs (in a 60-member house). We are hoping to win both the seats with at least a margin of 2 lakh votes,” Ibobi Singh said.

Two of the five newly joined MLAs attended a flag-hoisting programme today. In his speech at the programme, Manipur PCC president and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam said the MSCP’s merger was in the interest of the people as it had strengthened the Congress against divisive and communal forces.


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