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Ibobi-Rio spat... to be continued

Imphal, April 1: Manipur chief minister calls his Nagaland counterpart “trouble-maker” and the latter calls the former “Nagas’ greatest enemy”.

This ongoing spat between Okram Ibobi Singh and Neiphiu Rio is unlikely to end till polling for the Outer Manipur seat is over on April 9. Rio’s party the Naga People’s Front (NPF) is fielding Soso Lorho in the Outer seat.

Lorho is among 10 candidates, including two Independents, in the seat reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Sitting MP of the Congress Thangso Baite is seeking re-election for the second time from the constituency.

Rio, who is also seeking election from the lone Nagaland seat has been actively campaigning for Lorho, a former cabinet minister from Senapati district.

Since March 26, Rio addressed five election rallies in Manipur covering four out of five hill districts till yesterday. The districts, he visited to campaign for Lorho are Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong which are dominated by Nagas.

Rio is hoping for a good performance by Lorho in the Outer seat as the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) has four members in the Manipur Assembly. Sources said the United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of the Nagas in Manipur, is also supporting the NPF candidate.

The spat was triggered when Rio in his first Manipur election rally held in Senapati district called Ibobi Singh “Nagas’ greatest enemy”. Rio also cited reasons for calling Ibobi Singh an “enemy”.

The reason, Rio cited, was Ibobi Singh’s attempt to prevent him from entering Manipur in 2011 to launch the Manipur unit of the NPF.

Rio alleged that Ibobi Singh had done more damage than good for the Nagas. Rio said shifting of a railway line by Ibobi Singh was against the Nagas’ interest.

Two days later, Ibobi Singh reacted, accusing Rio of making “hate speeches”.

In an election rally in Churachandpur district yesterday, Ibobi Singh alleged that Rio’s Manipur visit for campaign violated norms.

“The Nagaland chief secretary should have informed his Manipur counterpart about Rio’s visit to Manipur so that the state government could arrange security for the visiting dignitary. His government should inform the Manipur government prior to the visit,” Ibobi Singh said.

Congress MLA N. Biren Singh on Sunday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against Rio’s “hate speech”.

Manifesto: The Janata Dal (U), which is contesting the Outer Manipur seat, released its manifesto today. The JD(U) vowed to fight for safeguarding Manipur’s territorial integrity and repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

JD (U) candidate Lien Gangte said his top priority was protecting Manipur’s territorial integrity and repealing the army act.

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