Wangjing, in Thoubal district of Manipur, was a strategic choice by the state Congress committee for a Rahul Gandhi rally. It is indisputably a Congress stronghold. It is also Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s home turf. And it houses Manipur’s largest and only Muslim area — Lilong. All this made Wangjing the natural choice for the AICC vice-president’s “one and only big rally’’ that Manipur will have before its first round of elections on April 9.
The venue set the tone for the speeches by Rahul and Singh at the rally Wednesday. While Singh skipped any mention of development, deciding instead to heckle the BJP and dwell upon Congress’s inclusiveness, Rahul himself merely glanced over the party’s achievements and future plans in Manipur — particularly a railway network to connect the state to the rest of the country.
“In 1972, Indira Gandhi came here and participated in a function that gave you your state, Manipur. She said that Manipur was a real gem. This also shows what the Congress thinks of Manipur – and not just about Manipur but every single state in the country…,” said Rahul.
Taking a dig at Modi’s development model, Rahul said, “He talks of the Gujarat model. But what does the Gujarat model have to do with Manipur? What does the Gujarat model have to do with Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or Meghalaya or any other state for that matter?… I respect the people of Manipur, and believe that the only model that should work for Manipur is the Manipur model.”
The chief minister meanwhile, spoke of the riots of June 18, 2001, after the Vajpayee government declared a ceasefire with the NSCN(IM) and said the last time BJP government ruled at the Centre, “Manipur was burning.’’
Speaking on the sidelines, president of the Manipur State Congress Committee and deputy chief minister of G Gaikhangam said that Thoubal, apart from being a Congress stronghold was also strategically picked to host Rahul’s rally as both Lok Sabha constituencies from the state — Outer Manipur and Inner Manipur — overlap here.
As for Narendra Modi’s rally earlier last month Gaighangam said the Congress was not worried and “everyone was welcome in the state’’. “As a matter of fact I would say that the Modi’s rally was actually a triumph for the state because it went off smoothly despite this being a conflict zone,” he added.