IMPHAL: It was emotion, sentiments and rhetoric all wound into a pre-poll fire when West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee addressed the TMC election rally at Langjing Achouba ground in Imphal West on Wednesday. “We will not allow any Army rule in Manipur”, thundered the firebrand lady amid applause by 10,000 supporters. Only a year ago Mamata Banerjee single handedly ended the three decade long hold of CPI (M) when her party swept West Bengal elections by a more than 2/3rd majority.
On a softer note Mamata reminded Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Imphal campaign and said that Netaji’s INA hoisted the national Tricolour for the first time on Indian soil at Moirang in Manipur.
The powerful West Bengal CM is the first prominent leader who has committed on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) issue.
“I had a talk with Irom Sharmila, the Iron Lady of Manipur,” she told the rally and promised that if TMC comes to power in Manipur, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) will be withdrawn. “If TMC comes to power, I can assure you, we will fight. We will not give consent for continuance of the draconian law,” said Mamata.
Earlier before the rally she drove straight to J N Hospital after landing at Imphal airport around 2 pm to meet Irom. Irom is being force-fed through the nose for the past 11 years. Irom has been on a fast-unto-death since November 4, 2000 — when 10 Manipuris were killed by Assam Rifles.”We recognize your struggle and your plight. I want Manipur to smile,” Mamata told Irom.
AFSPA gives absolute powers to military personnel in Manipur and elsewhere. Manipuris have been fiercely resisting the act for decades. The ruling Congress in the state and its two time Chief Minister Ibobi Singh have been non-committal on AFSPA issues. Congress’s election manifesto either doesn’t commit withdrawing AFSPA. The CM said earlier this week that the experience of removing AFSPA in the seven constituencies in and around capital Imphal has not been very good and the centre will review it all depending upon the law and order situation. The move has also met stiff resistance from the army and defence ministry. Home ministry, though, has trying to find a consensus in bringing some amendment to the act.
Mamata in her tirade against the ruling Congress-CPI government said, “If the ruling parties cannot perform, it’s time now to throw them out and give a chance to another party.” Remembering her last visit to Manipur 10 years ago she said that the state is now in a horrible condition. “I don’t understand why the government has failed to deliver so miserably,” she said. She blamed the state govt. of rampant corruption and wondered where the money goes when 90% funding comes from the centre. “I want a green Manipur. Green depicts peace, development and progress,” she said.
TMC is a key ally in the UPA-II government. She has already been a bete noire for the ruling alliance who forced the Manmohan Singh govt. to roll back crucial policy decisions like oil price hike and foreign direct investment in retail sector.
Talking about her govt.’s achievements in West Bengal over past eight month the WB CM said, “If we can solve the problem of [Maoist-infested] Jangalmahal in West Bengal, I think we can also solve the problem of Manipur.” She told that her government has also released many prisoners including KLO militants from jail during the last eight months. Reminding the crowd about Gorkha Territorial Administration she said, “If Darjeeling can smile now, Manipur should also smile,” she said.
Describing West Bengal as the gateway of the northeast, Ms. Banerjee promised that WB would provide all assitance in setting up industries and promoting tourism in Manipur. She also said that here party would promote Manipuri and tribal culture.
Trinamool is fielding 47 candidates for the 60-seat assembly elections in Manipur. The voting will take place on January 28, 2012.