Imphal, March 28: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his deputy Gaikhangam today accused Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio of making “hate speech” during his election address in Senapati district yesterday to create “trouble” in Manipur.
Ibobi Singh and Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister and Manipur PCC president, were reacting to Rio’s charges that the Manipur chief minister was playing “divide and rule policy” among ethnic tribals in the hills.
“Ibobi Singh is driving a wedge between the Kukis and Nagas in Manipur. He has failed to protect the interest of minorities. He has set one community against another,” Rio had said while campaigning for Soso Lorho, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) candidate in Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency, in an election rally at the district headquarters of Senapati.
“Rio is trying to disturb the communal harmony in Manipur. Communal forces are more dangerous than atom bombs. His (NPF) is a communal party,” Ibobi Singh reacted while addressing an election meeting held at the private residence of Thangso Baite, the Congress’s sitting MP for Outer seat, in Churachandpur, the district headquarters.
Ten candidates, including two Independents, are in the fray for the Outer seat.
Ibobi Singh urged voters to give such “communal forces” a befitting defeat so that they would not be able to raise their heads again.
Gaikhangam’s reaction to Rio’s allegations was more hard-hitting. “Rio is indulging in hate speech. He is inciting communal hatred among different communities in Manipur. This is unbecoming of a chief minister and a public leader. He should refrain from making such irresponsible statements,” he said.
Rio and Ibobi Singh have been at loggerheads since the Manipur chief minister tried to prevent his Nagaland counterpart from entering Manipur in 2011 to open the Manipur unit of the NPF.
However, Rio did come and announced the opening of the NPF’s Manipur unit at the same venue as yesterday in 2011.
The party won four seats in the 2012 Manipur Assembly election.
After the incident (Ibobi Singh’s attempt to prevent Rio’s entry in Manipur), Rio branded Ibobi Singh “enemy number 1” of the Nagas.
Gaikhangam also said the Ibobi Singh government had allocated more funds for infrastructure development and connectivity in the five hill districts than in the four valley districts.
Accusing Rio of “fishing in troubled waters”, he said the Ibobi Singh government was trying to bring about equal development in both the hills and the valley. A host of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and MLAs from the hills and the valley were present at the candidate’s house to project the Congress as the only neutral party.
Shrugging off Rio’s charges, Ibobi Singh and Gaikhangam expressed full confidence that the party would retain the Outer seat with a huge margin.