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New districts to stay, says Ibobi

Imphal, Dec 31 (Agencies)
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Published on 31 Dec. 2016 9:47 PM IST
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Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has said that his government will not go back on its decision to create seven new districts — a move that has triggered a crippling 61-day economic blockade of the State by the United Naga Council.
“The government has created seven new districts for speedy development and administrative convenience and there will be no rollback,” a combative Mr. Singh told The Hindu in an interview on Friday.
The UNC claims that the new districts in the Naga-dominated areas would encroach upon and divide the traditional landholdings of the Nagas. Dismissing the Naga criticism, Mr. Singh said, “A district cannot be mapped along ethnic and communal lines, and no tribe is the owner of the land.”
Without naming anyone, the Chief Minister said attempts were being made to drive a wedge between the people of Manipur by one group. But the State was a miniature India, where several tribes and communities had lived in harmony for years, he said.
Mr. Singh denied Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju’s charge that the government was not serious about ending the blockade.
“There is no question of politics as it concerns the people of the State,” Mr. Singh said and added that his government had sent several proposals to the UNC for talks with the only condition that the group should lift the blockade and give an assurance that it would not be repeated.
“There was no specific response,” Mr. Singh said. Instead the UNC demanded that its president, Gaidon Kamei, under arrest since last month, be released first, he said.
The Chief Minister also claimed that the UNC was insisting on holding talks in Senapati district, dominated by the Nagas.
“It should be held in Imphal. We have no objection if the venue is shifted to Delhi even,” Mr. Singh said.
He said Central paramilitary personnel were escorting trucks and oil tankers along highways.
On the coming Assembly elections in the State, Mr. Singh said the Congress would not have an alliance with any party. “We will contest all the 60 seats,” Mr. Singh said.
Manipur is among the five States, along with Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Goa, where Assembly elections are due next year.
On murmurs of discontent in the Congress on with some leaders unhappy at the induction of MLAs and former MLAs from other parties, Mr. Singh said usually a sitting MLA was given the party ticket.
“But in some cases, those who have better chances of winning are also given ticket,” Mr. Singh added.
The latest to join the party was Khumukcham Joykishan, the sitting MLA from Thangmeiband constituency in Imphal. Mr Joykishan quit the BJP and joined the Congress last week and it is becoming increasingly clear that he will be given the party ticket.

 
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