It was Churanchandpur town's first brush with the political elite. More than 10,000 men, women and children turned up at the Tuibuang Peace Ground on Monday to see UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Little tricolours in hand, children and women in traditional costumes waited wide-eyed for her helicopter to land in the picturesque Peace Ground nestling in hills. The town is the biggest in state capital Imphal. Its interesting, and sometimes volatile, mix of tribes include the Paites, Kukis, Simtes, Hmars, Vaipheis, Gangtes, Chins, Zous and Mizos. On Monday, they all wanted to just listen to Sonia Gandhi speak.
The six assembly constituencies in the Churachandpur district, all of which are reserved for scheduled tribes, go to polls on February 23, the third and the last phase of the election.
The Congress president seemed pleased with the turnout and the cultural programme that followed. She tapped her feet and drummed her fingers to the tunes. But she struck the high note ending her speech in the local dialect saying: “ka ki paye” (keep well).
Sonia even pointed out to Congress Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh that the last performing group was left stranded as the introductory speech abruptly started.
In her speech that translated from English into the Zou language, Sonia praised the women of the state for “their brave activism against violence and injustice”.' She added that the self-help groups that have come up in the state “will further help my sisters”.
On insurgency, Sonia reiterated the UPA Government was open to dialogue with “any group, any time provided they shunned violence”.
She added that under the current Congress rule Manipur had, for the first time, a government that lasted five years.
Sonia Gandhi also praised the culture of sports in the State, saying it had produced many outstanding men and women representing the country through the years. Manipur leads in the medals tally at the ongoing National Games in Guwahati.