The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manipur parties in poll freeze cry
- Ibobi govt describes security as skeletal

Imphal, April 9: Unable to campaign under the shadow of the militant gun, political parties in Manipur today pressed the panic button and urged the Election Commission to reschedule elections in the two constituencies if it wanted to prevent bullets from prevailing over ballots.

Polling in Outer Manipur constituency is slated for April 20, while Inner Manipur is scheduled to go to the hustings on April 26.

Political leaders who attended a meeting convened by chief electoral officer V. Chibber said it was unlikely that the Lok Sabha poll would be free and fair if militant groups continued to interfere in parties’ choice of candidates and issues.

The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) clamped a “ban” on the elections this week, describing the process as a “meaningless” exercise. The group asked the people to boycott the poll to show the international community that they were against “Indian colonial rule”.

Two other banned organisations, the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), imposed restrictions on the BJP and the ruling Congress campaigning in the state for different reasons.

The KYKL, which takes its role as crusader and vigilante seriously, said state BJP chief and Inner Manipur candidate Th. Chaoba Singh was “an agent of the Indian government” and anybody found campaigning for him would be shot dead. The group asked the BJP to either expel him or resign itself to an election without the freedom to campaign.

The RPF clamped a ban on the Congress’ electoral campaign, accusing the Secular Progressive Front coalition of failing to check violation of human rights by security forces.

The Okram Ibobi Singh government recently asked for 200 additional companies of paramilitary forces for the elections. However, Delhi agreed to send only 79 companies.

The chief minister convened an all-party meeting last night to discuss the subject.

The meeting resolved to pressure the Election Commission to reschedule the elections or arrange for the deployment of 200 additional companies of paramilitary forces. The national political parties today apprised their leaders in New Delhi of the decision.

There has been no electioneering in Inner Manipur since the UNLF announced its diktat. Outer Manipur constituency has, however, been relatively unaffected.

A team of officials is in New Delhi to apprise the Election Commission and the Centre of the situation.

Chief secretary A.P. Sharma and additional director-general of police Y. Joykumar Singh, who is the nodal officer for poll security, met Election Commission officials this afternoon. A meeting on the same topic was held yesterday.

A minister who is close to Ibobi Singh described the security arrangements in the state as “skeletal” and said these could not ensure a free and fair poll.

“Under the prevailing circumstances, the elections will never be free and fair. Holding the elections properly is the responsibility of the Election Commission and the Centre. Hence, the state government is demanding either rescheduling or adequate central forces,” he said.

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