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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong bickering over polls
- AICC yet to finalise candidates for Manipur seats

Imphal, March 22: The AICC’s procrastination in announcing the names of candidates for the two parliamentary seats in Manipur has worried the state Congress as campaigning began in full swing for a majority of the parties.

Opposition Manipur People’s Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the National Peoples Party and the Manipur State Congress Party have begun campaigning for their common candidates — N. Mohendro Singh for the Inner Manipur seat and L.B. Sona for the Outer.

The four Left parties and Janata Dal (Secular), too, began electioneering for their common candidate, Moirangthem Nara Singh, for the Inner seat.

However, the front called the Left and Democratic Coordinating for Inner Manipur is not contesting the Outer.

It comprises the CPI, a partner in Okram Ibobi Singh ministry, the CPM, the RSP, the Forward Bloc and Janata Dal (Secular).

The BJP also began campaigning for Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh in the Inner and Dominic Loli Adanee in the Outer seat.

Though the parties are yet to kick off rallies, they have already began in-camera meetings in the constituencies.

“The delay is doing more harm than good. We do not know how to campaign and for whom. We are lagging behind the rest of the opponents,” a senior PCC office bearer said.

The Congress has not been able to announce the list because of conflicting pressure from two groups within the PCC and the AICC.

While chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, along with a majority of the Congress MLAs, is pushing for I. Hemochandra Singh, an MLA from Singjamei Assembly constituency, others are pressing for sitting MP Thokchom Meinya Singh for the Inner seat.

Meinya Singh lost favour with Ibobi Singh after the MP joined a dissident group against the chief minister a year ago. Meinya Singh, however, has a strong lobby within the AICC.

Sonia Gandhi so far has not been able to decide on the candidate, a party source said.

There is not much contention on the Outer seat though. Ibobi Singh had recommended power minister Phungzathang Tonsing for the seat. But it was turned down by the high command and name of Thangso Baite, a former party MLA from Singhhat, is doing the rounds.

The AICC, however, is delaying announcing the name of the Outer candidate as well because it wants to declare both the names together.

“The delay is creating a rift within the party. Whenever we called a meeting (block level), it ended with arguments among supporters of Meinya Singh and Hemochandra Singh. We fear that the rift will widen after the name is announced and the CPI may reap the benefit,” Maibam Tombi Singh, a grassroots level worker from Imphal West said.

PCC president Gaikhangam and other senior leaders, however, maintained that the delay would not affect the party’s poll prospects.

“We have our own workers and voters intact and the party will stand united for the candidate to be declared by the AICC,” Gaikhangam said.

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