IMPHAL: Activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who didn't eat a morsel for 16 years while protesting against a harsh law, is contesting next month's Manipur polls against three-time Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Soon after filing her nomination papers, she started with an apology - on behalf of the man she is going to marry, Desmond Coutinho.
"On behalf of Desmond, I tender my apology and seek forgiveness," the 44-year-old told reporters yesterday.
She said she had learnt that her fiance, a Goa-born British national, had been using abusive and unparliamentary language for her supporters and those who had been by her side for years. "I seek apology from them. His tirade also hurt many from the general public and others who are currently looking after my welfare" Sharmila said.
But she also broke down, expressing worry over Mr Coutinho's health. "He is nearly 10 years older than me, his health is poor, I wish to marry him once the elections are over," she declared.
Mr Coutinho has confronted the disapproval of many who have been close to the activist over the years and he has been known to return the hostility. He was reportedly once beaten up by women activists after he was seen holding Sharmila's hand in court.
In August, Sharmila ended the iconic fast that she began over alleged atrocities in the name of a controversial law that gives the army sweeping powers to crack down on people in conflict areas.
"There was lot of public anguish when she gave up her hunger strike and joined politics. It seems Sharmila is now trying to reach out to voters by seeking apologies. One has to see if it helps her in the elections," said Imphal-based journalist Sunzu Bachaspatimayum.
Yesterday, Sharmila displayed a knack for the election game as she and her supporters from blew whistles - their party symbol - when the Chief Minister's convoy was passing.
"We are the whistle-blowers. We wanted to convey to Ibobi Singh that we are here to fight against his corruption," PRJA Convener Erendro Leichombam told NDTV.