Imphal: The Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila, has reiterated her allegation that the BJP had offered her a ticket and to finance her campaign with Central funds -- a hefty Rs 36 crore. Today, she named a local BJP leader who had made the offer. The allegations of the activist -- who is contesting against three-time Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh from Thoubal constituency - has triggered controversy, with the BJP demanding that she prove her claims or face a defamation case.
"No BJP leader has ever met her or offered that much money to her. Let me tell you, our entire Manipur campaign does not cost that much," said senior BJP leader Ram Madhav. Calling the accusation a part of propaganda, he said, new people should "fight respectfully".
At a press conference today in Imphal, Ms Sharmila said she had indeed been approached by the one of the Convenors of the BJP, Sur Vinod, a few months ago. "I was really selected for BJP candidature... they put a condition requiring average 36 crores... they said if I have the sum, I needed to produce it and if not, it will come from Centre. He said he has already contacted BJP president Amit Shah in this matter" Ms Sharmila said.
Clarifying it was more of a suggestion and not an offer, Ms Sharmila said she had refused.
The alleged offer of Rs 36 crore has become the biggest talking point in the ongoing assembly elections in the state after she made the claim during an interview with NDTV last week. The Congress has alleged that the BJP offer shows how the party is trying to poach people with money power.
"We have seen in social media that many aspiring candidates said they paid and they did not get tickets," said state Congress spokesperson Joy Kishan Singh.
Elections to the Thoubal constituency, from where Ms Sharmila is contesting as an independent, takes place on March 8. The activist -- who stopped her 16-year fast last year to take the political route to lift the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act ) from Manipur -- has crowd-funded her campaign.
On February 9, Ms Sharmila had told NDTV that the BJP approached her with a party ticket to contest against the Chief Minister. "Their suggestion was I would need 36 crores to contest. If I have it, I should produce it, if not, the Centre would sanction it," she had said, adding that she had turned down the suggestion, insisting that she would contest as an independent.