Sonia at Kangla
Her speech skipped main issues
President of All India Congress Committee and Chairperson of United Progressive Alliance and also of National Advisory Council, Smt Sonia Gandhi had come to Manipur for just about four hours and inaugurated four main market complexes, one hostel for Muslim girls and also Khuga Multipurpose Project and laid the foundation stones for Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Regional Centre, Makha, Senapati district and Netaji Subhaschandra Bose INA Memorial mega project, Moirang. She also inaugurated Congress Bhavan annexe and unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi on the premises of Congress Bhavan. What’s more, Sonia Gandhi paid homage to Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General at the Sahid Minar at BT Park. Yesterda, November 12, 2010, Friday was a memorable day in the history of Manipur. As far as Manipuri people’s memory is concerned, there has never been a single day in the recent or ancient past on which a national leader from New Delhi come to Manipur and inaugurated so many infrastructure. The way the state government made meticulously elaborate arrangement for Sonia Gandhi’s visit during the past several weeks was indeed astounding. It’s a pity that she did not see for herself the extraordinarily spruced up roads in the heart of Imphal city just for her visit at the cost of huge amount of money – reportedly to the tune of ` 5 crore. Sonia Gandhi did not do much of travelling on the bullet proof vehicle on the city streets. Sprucing city up as a routine affair is good but spending too much money on beautification of the same which would not be seen at all by the VVIP is simply useless. The ones who gained the most out of the whirlwind visit of Sonia Gandhi are those contractors who did various works for the preparations over the past one month or so.
Meanwhile, inauguration of specially the three market complexes at Khwairamband by Sonia Gandhi has left several thousands of women vendors who would be lucky to get seats in the market complexes and various women associations of the markets very happy. The happiest was the Chief Minister, Shri Okram Ibobi, MPCC President Shri Gaikhangam and other Cabinet Ministers and MLAs of Congress. The CPI, which is a partner of Congress in the SPF coalition, could also be sharing somewhat of the happiness on the inauguration of the market complexes and Khuga Multipurpose Project, but not quite visible. However, one of the CPI MLAs and even Health Minister Ph Parijat were conspicuous at the public meeting held at Kangla and during the inauguration ceremonies at the Khwairamband market. Even then, there’s no doubt that it was all achievements of the Ibobi-led SPF Ministry.
On the other hand, it’s now a tradition that any national leader, who comes from Delhi and speaks at a public gathering in Manipur, always extols the natural beauty and resources, art and culture, dances, talented sportspersons, etc. of Manipur. They also never forget to mention a word or two about the need for peace to bring about peace in the state and so on. Similarly, Smt Sonia Gandhi also touched on these matters in her speech at Kangla. But she skipped other burning issues, and people are facing a lot of hardship and are agitated due to these issues. She did not mention a single word about the issue of insurgency, which is the most important issue in Manipur. Moreover, she did not say a word about the arrest/abduction of UNLF Chairman RK Meghen, for which 17 civil organizations of Manipur had called for the 15 hour general strike during her visit. Then it’s not exactly surprising that Smt Sonia Gandhi did not mention anything about Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), nothing to say about Irom Chanu Sharmila’s 10 year-old fast. Besides, she did not make even a passing mention about the impact of the frequent economic blockade on the lives of the people – such as the present fuel crisis that has been dogging the state for the past seven months. However one welcoming news it that Smt Sonia Gandhi announced that the Union Minister of State for Urban Development, Poverty Alleviation and Tourism, Km Selja had consented to sanction ` 72 crore for construction of three other market complexes. Otherwise, on the whole, Smt Sonia Gandhi’s speech was just a routine rhetoric. Meawhile, Chief Minister Shri O Ibobi’s eight mention on the difficulties that he faces while trying to get appointment for meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, and that he has to spend many days waiting for the appointment right in front of Smt Sonia Gandhi was quite effective. Though the Chief Minister said that he was not complaining or blaming anybody, it was a kind of complaint, which sounded very much like a son complaining to his mother for certain things. It’s good that Smt Sonia Gandhi said that the Prime Minister or she herself was always ready to meet the Chief Minister. Yet we feel that Shri Ibobi should have done better by making that kind of “complaint” to Smt Gandhi privately, and by making it in public, it might diminish his stature in the eyes of the public and as well as party legistrators.