His critics are dime a dozen, but many in Manipur agree chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has survival instincts that saw him through three successive terms overcoming many a hurdle. Facing perhaps his biggest electoral challenge from a resourceful BJP, he is confident of Congress retaining power. Excerpts from an interview with HT:
You were initially seen as a CM acceptable to all communities, including the Nagas. Is that image intact?
I am a CM for everyone, and no community has had any issues with me. It is only the NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland, which wants Greater Nagalim created from large swathes of Manipur and other states) that does not like me. I am committed to protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur, and have fought with the Centre whenever it took decisions on NSCN-IM without consulting us (ceasefire with NSCN-IM does not apply to Manipur).
BJP says your government is behind the economic blockade.
They know better. They have an alliance in Nagaland, and are in talks with the NSCN-IM which is behind the blockade.
You responded to the blockade, against dividing Naga areas, by creating seven new districts. Has it turned the tide in favour of Congress?
The districts were created for administrative convenience, not for political reasons, to help the government get closer to the people in remote areas. But the NSCN-IM and UNC communalised the issue saying these were created to give their ancestral land to other communities.