Thoubal, Manipur: Manipur's famous human rights crusader Irom Chanu Sharmila is busy these days campaigning in Thoubal - the assembly constituency that three-time Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh of the Congress represents. Ms Sharmila, 44, who recently launched her political party Peoples' Resurgence And Justice Alliance (PRAJA), is contesting against the 68-year-old Chief Minister.
NDTV caught up with Ms Sharmila during her campaign as she spoke at length on why she is taking a plunge into politics, why she turned down an offer from the BJP and also her take on the economic blockade that has paralysed the state.
NDTV: You have given up your hunger strike and said that now the fight will be taken up politically and you want to take it right inside the legislative assembly. How has the journey into politics been so far?
Irom Sharmila: People's reaction is mixed. They come to realise the real being of me. They come to know about my sense of humanity. Here in Thoubal, I am sitting and discussing with the local community. They are happy about my new step. They all want to see a change and they are fed up of the three terms of the Congress.
NDTV: You want to bring change and a new social order in Manipur. The BJP is also talking of change. What is your opinion on the BJP?
Irom Sharmila: I was approached by the BJP to fight on their ticket in this election. Their suggestion was that to fight Ibobi, I will need 36 crores. If I have it, I should produce it, if not the centre would sanction it. On that condition, I said I will stand for elections as an independent. I don't criticise other political parties. I just want to bring a change in the society. I want to bring the right to justice to all and ensure that the draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) is withdrawn.
NDTV: Before you launched your political party - PRAJA - you had met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and many in Manipur are now saying that you are trying to repeat what Mr Kejriwal did in Delhi. What was his tip for you?
Irom Sharmila: He just wanted me to be successful in bringing real democracy in the society and wanted me to connect with people and he gave brotherly advice.
NDTV: The economic blockade has overshadowed the poll. Does it seems there is any solution?
Irom Sharmila: Right now, the solution is not visible. Our government is benefiting from the blockade politically and until and unless there is a change, things will be the same.