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Flower powers PM’s ire

india Updated: Nov 26, 2008 00:07 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times
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If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unusually aggressive on Tuesday, blame it on a flower that blooms every 50 years to cause famines.

Addressing an election rally at the Assam Rifles ground here as “a representative of Sonia Gandhi”, the Prime Minister tore into the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) for misusing Rs 125 crore provided by the Central government to combat the ill-effects of bamboo flowering.

The bamboo flower yields a fruit that rats gorge on to multiply abnormally. The rodent army subsequently devours crops and granaries to lead to a phenomenon called mautam. Bamboos have begun to flower in Mizoram. The last bamboo flowering in the 1960s had led to militancy in the state.

“You must have heard about the misuse of huge funds given to meet the menace of bamboo flowering. We had given more than Rs 125 crore. What happened to all this money? Do you really want a government which is unaccountable and tainted?" he asked some 3,000 people at the rally.

Maintaining that “corruption under the MNF government has reached endemic proportions”, the Singh also lambasted the ruling party for squandering funds meant for tribal welfare, hydro and health projects before underscoring a slew of projects the Congress government provided specifically for Mizoram, an “island of peace” in the Northeast.

Ironically, the Prime Minister fired his salvo from the very ground where Sonia Gandhi was denied a rally in the last assembly elections because she is a political leader. The influential Mizoram Peoples' Forum (MPF) — comprising the Young Mizo Association and the Church — had turned down the UPA chairperson’s wish to address a rally at this ground.

Though the MPF/s moral police consented to Singh’s rally owing to his status as PM, it had the last say by restricting his
campaign to two venues — Lunglei in southern Mizoram and Aizawl.

Earlier in Lunglei, Singh tried to counter the “pro-Church and God-fearing” MNF by assuring the people that the UPA government and Congress party would do everything possible to ensure perpetrators of crimes against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka are punished.