New Delhi: Congress’ Manipur in-charge Bhakta Charan Das on Sunday accused the BJP of reducing AFSPA to an “organised violence” act to target citizens, and asserted that the demand for its repeal was a “big issue” in Manipur but the BJP was “not respecting” people’s views.

The Congress, which has promised to work towards the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, if voted to power in Manipur assembly polls, has slammed the BJP for being silent on the act in its manifesto.

In an interview with PTI, Das rejected suggestions that not having announced a chief ministerial face could hamper the Congress’ chances in Manipur and said the party has several capable leaders, including former CM Okram Ibobi Singh who is active and a “very strong face” for the leadership of the state.

The Congress’ Manipur in-charge exuded confidence that the party would form the government in Manipur and get around 35-40 seats in the 60-member assembly.

Das claimed that the anti-incumbency factor was very strong against the N Biren Singh government as it had “failed” to fulfil even a single poll promise.

“This is a Congress-minded state. Consecutively, there was a Congress government for three terms which shows the foundation of the Congress is strong in the state. The BJP came to power not by the mandate of the people but did a sort of management and remained in power in an illegal manner,” he said, adding that despite the high court’s order, 12 MLAs remained in office unconstitutionally.

Also read: Manipur 2022: Naga issue, AFSPA repeal on top as CM Rio leads NPF campaign

“Government was busy in corruption and tackling their own problems and that of their allies. Not a single poll promise they fulfilled, so anti-incumbency is very strong,” he said.

Asked about the issue of AFSPA, Das said it is a “very big issue” in the entire northeast, particularly after the Nagaland incident in which civilians were killed.

“It was clearly a misuse of AFSPA,” the Congress leader alleged referring to the Nagaland incident in which 14 people were killed as security forces opened fire in three consecutive episodes.

In Manipur also, it was a big issue at that time and the Congress has taken a stance to repeal this Act, Das said.

The N Biren Singh government did not get it removed, he said, alleging that the BJP has double standards on the issue.

Das said the BJP was not respecting the views of the people on the issue and asserted that there was no other way forward but to repeal AFSPA.

Asked why the Congress had not repealed the Act when it was in power, Das said that time was different in light of the insurgency issue.

Also read: Manipur 2022: Congress’ Seram Neken Singh on battle vs. Th Biswajit, poll agenda

“What is happening now, they are claiming we have restored peace then why can’t you repeal this Act,” he said, alleging that it was being “misused’ by the BJP.

“AFSPA is now purely an organised violence act. AFSPA, in its initial stages, was different, but now it is established to empower violence against citizens. These people (the BJP) want to use it against citizens. They want to create a terror atmosphere to remain in power,” Das alleged.

“Now in elections the BJP is indulging in organised violence…Those who believe in organised violence would not remove that (AFSPA),” he said.

Asked how would his party avoid MLAs switching loyalties as it happened in the outgoing assembly, Das said everyone has taken oath before Kangla Fort, a temple, a church and a masjid that they will serve the people of Manipur as part of the Congress.

The BJP is trying to intimidate Congress candidates and threaten them, he alleged.

Das predicted that the Congress will definitely get between 35-40 seats on its own and its 34 per cent vote share in the last election will see an addition of five per cent this time.

He claimed that repeated visits by BJP bigwigs such as party chief J P Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh show their position is weak.

The Congress is contesting 54 seats and has joined hands with five other political parties — the CPI, CPI(M), RSP, JD(S) and the Forward Bloc — to form a pre-poll alliance.

Assembly election in the northeastern state will be held in two phases on February 28 and March 5. Counting of votes will be held on March 10.

Also read: Manipur 2022: Ex-CM Okram Ibobi Singh confident of Congress majority

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