Union minister Jitendra Singh on Monday refused to answer questions about the worsening situation in Manipur during a media briefing, saying it was a “very sensitive” issue and that he was not authorised to speak on the matter.
He focused, instead, on lauding the “big achievements” made during the nine years of the Narendra Modi government, claiming, for instance, that it had generated many more jobs than its UPA predecessor.
“I feel this (Manipur) is a very sensitive issue…. The home ministry has taken cognisance and will give information at the right time in an authorised manner,” Singh, a junior minister in the Prime Minister’s office who holds other key portfolios such as science and technology (independent charge), replied in Hindi to a question on the Manipur situation.
Singh, previously minister for development of the northeastern region, also evaded a question about the demand from two BJP allies for President’s rule in Manipur.
“I don’t want to speak out of turn. Those who are authorised to speak would share whatever information is received,” he replied.
Singh’s caginess about Manipur comes at a time Prime Minister Modi’s silence on the continuing violence since May 3 has attracted wide criticism from political rivals, academics, military veterans and even common people in the northeastern state.
Some people in Manipur on Sunday protested Modi’s failure to mention the state in his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast by stomping on transistor sets in public.
A retired lieutenant general from Manipur recently described the state as “stateless” and likened the anarchy and violence there with the situations in “Libya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Syria etc”.
Union home minister Amit Shah was in Manipur from May 29 to June 1 – visiting the state 26 days after the start of the clashes between Meiteis and Kukis that have killed more than 110 people and displaced tens of thousands.
Shah held a series of meetings in the state but has remained silent on the situation since then.
Shah, who had occupied himself with campaigningfor the May 10 Karnatakapolls during the initial daysof the Manipur unrest, was busy with rallies in Punjab and Haryana on Saturday and Sunday to mark nine years of the Modi government as reports of rioting continued to pour in from the northeastern state.
Addressing a rally in Sirsa, Haryana, Shah urged the people of the state to ensure that the BJP won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats from the state to help Modi become Prime Minister again in 2024.
Shah, who continues to call the shots in party affairs and prepare election strategy, said the BJP would contest all the 10 seats, indicating strains in the relations with ally JJP in the state.
The Union government and the BJP, preoccupied with a month-long outreach since end-May to celebrate Modi’s nine years in power, have been entirely focused on using the programme to campaign for next year’s general election while appearing to side-step issues such as Manipur.
Shah and party chief J.P. Nadda have been holding rallies in various states on weekends to hail Modi’s achievements and seek a third straight term for him.
Other ministers too are taking turns to address the media at the BJP headquarters and claim that the country has witnessed transformational change in the last nine years. Each of them has refused to answer questions on Manipur.