Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday made a fervent appeal to the warring Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur to sit together and hold a “heart-to-heart” conversation to end their “trust deficit”, in what is seen as a fresh attempt by the Centre to bring peace to the troubled state.
In an address at an election rally in this southern-most tip of Mizoram bordering Myanmar, Singh said violence is no solution to any problem and the two communities in Manipur must talk to each other to improve the situation in the state.
“The Northeast has been peaceful in the last nine years. Insurgency has ended in every state. However, we have witnessed unfortunate incidents of violence in Manipur this year and it is painful for us,” he said.
“Violence is no solution to any problem. What we need is heart-to-heart conversation. I appeal to both the communities (Meitei and Kuki) to sit together and end trust deficit,” Singh added.
Manipur has been witnessing deadly violence since May because of hostilities between Meiteis and Kukis that has left over 180 people dead and hundreds wounded or displaced.
“I want to categorically say that it (violence) did not take place because of any political party. It happened because of certain situations,” the senior BJP leader said.
He also accused the Congress of trying to exploit the situation in Manipur for political gain.
“When the situation in Manipur was deteriorating, Congress tried its best to do politics over it,” Singh said.
“There is a need to keep the entire country including Mizoram and the Northeast away from the negative politics of Congress,” he added.
He said the Narendra Modi government “believes that unless Northeast is truly developed, the dream of a strong, prosperous and self-reliant India will not be fulfilled”.
In his address, Singh said an operation to ensure a drug-free Mizoram will be rolled out if the BJP comes to power in the state.
He also referred to use of the Air Force in Mizoram by the Congress government in the Centre in 1966.
“I compliment you for maintaining unity and national integrity in the face of adversity,” Singh said.
“When Congress was ruling at the Centre, they carried out the country’s first air strike on Mizoram. Now, BJP is in power and we will never do such things,” he said, reminding the episode of 1966 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a strike in Aizwal.
The strike was carried out targeting some militants. The defence minister said the BJP will change the development landscape of Mizoram if it comes to power in the state. “The BJP is synonymous with development and governance. We are here to provide Mizoram a new kind of politics that is based on good governance, development and welfare of the people. We believe in Justice to all and appeasement of none,” he added.
Elections for the 40-seat Mizoram assembly will be held on November 7 and counting will take place on December 3. The key players in the election are the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), the Congress and the BJP.
The MNF and BJP used to share a cordial relationship. However, the parties are fighting with each other in the upcoming polls. The BJP is looking at its maiden entry into the next Mizoram government after it dramatically expanded its presence in the majority of the Northeastern states in the last few years.
At present, the party is in power in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur and it emerged as a crucial player in Nagaland.
In his address, Singh also highlighted the Modi government’s efforts to boost connectivity in the Northeast.
“In 2014, there were only eight airports and one waterway in Northeast. Today, we have 17 airports and 18 waterways in the Northeast,” he said.
“An ambitious project to connect India with Thailand via highway is underway. The day this project is completed, the entire North-East will be transformed. Mizoram will also get its advantage,” he said.
Alleging corruption in implementation of SEDP (Socio-Economic Development Programme) scheme, Singh said a special investigation will be launched if the BJP comes to power.
He said corruption in Mizoram has increased under the current MNF government. “We will establish the Mizoram Sports Academy, providing fully-funded scholarships for aspiring athletes with a strong emphasis on football, wrestling, weightlifting, hockey, and badminton,” he said. “We will increase the annual financial assistance from Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme,” he added.