North East India Politics

Rebel on a Mission

Yumkham Erabot Singh, Cabinet Minister

The eternal dissenter, Erabot has the confidence of the Congress high command and could quash Ibobi Singh’s dreams

IN A state where chief ministerial candidates abound, Yumkham Erabot Singh, 73, stands apart. This senior cabinet minister in the Okram Ibobi Singh government has been most critical of the two-term CM and could snatch away his dream of a third term.

In August 2009, when the United Naga Council imposed a 68-day blockade on Manipur, the state home ministry under Ibobi Singh, refused to provide security to trucks carrying essential commodities. Erabot, who then handled food, civil supplies and industry portfolios, used his personal security to escort around 300 food trucks from the highway into the near-starving state. Erabot received a hero’s welcome while the CM was seen as apathetic.

As civil supplies minister — a portfolio that Ibobi took away from him in January 2010 — Erabot conducted raids on the premises of the 2nd Manipur Rifles quarters for illegal hoarding of petrol and diesel. Though he did not directly target the CM, he accused police and security personnel of indulging in black marketing and called it a failure of the Ibobi-controlled home ministry.

Erabot refused to speak to TEHELKA about his differences with the CM but their clashes at cabinet meetings are an open secret. In his early years in the government, Erabot had publicly declared he has the ears of the Congress high command. Political observers point out that the CM stays his hand as Erabot enjoys the support of state Congress president Gaikhangam Gangmei and ex-CM Rishang Keishing. Just days before Congress in-charge for Manipur, Luizinho Faleiro, arrived in Imphal to finalise the list of candidates for the Assembly election, Erabot landed in Delhi on a secret mission. Some say he carried evidence of Ibobi’s role in the alleged multi-crore Loktak corruption case (The Lake and the Fake Firm, TEHELKA, 3 April 2010). Whatever the poll outcome, Erabot remains the man to watch out for.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 02, Dated 14 Jan 2012

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