Imphal, March 6: The personal life of peace activist-turned-politician Irom Sharmila is hogging the limelight in Manipur for a few years now. Several local people have publicly opposed her relationship with her boyfriend Desmond Coutinho, a British citizen with Goan roots. Many have accused Desmond of 'poisoning' Irom's mind to end her 16 years hunger strike demanding the repeal of draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act last year.
In this election season in the northeastern state, Irom's love life and her boyfriend continue to create headlines. Recently, Irom told reporters that she is planning to marry her long-time boyfriend Desmond after the assembly elections in Manipur. The voting for the first-phase of polling in the state got over on March 4. The second-phase of polling is scheduled on March 8. However, on the day of the first-phase of polling in Manipur, Desmond said that the couple was getting married only after 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"Whatever the result of the election, I will not be marrying Irom Sharmila until after the elections in 2019 (Lok Sabha). She has too much work to do in Manipur," Desmond said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
"We are no teenagers. Two more years is not long to wait. It is not about winning but allowing people the option to take responsibility for their own lives grow up in a democracy. She has forged good alliances with the LDF (Left Democratic Front) both in Manipur and in India. Various leaders from the diverse communities of Manipur have reached out to her. And there is two million rupees in the war chest. There will be work to be done in and for Manipur," posted Desmond.
After ending her fast last year, Irom formed her political party--Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance. The PRJA is contesting in three seats in the 60-member state assembly. Sharmila herself is fighting against incumbent Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in Thoubal constituency.
Because of Desmond's regular alleged derogatory posts on social media, Irom has been attacked by several of her opponents. In fact, many of Desmond's comments on social media miffed her supporters too.
Sharmila recently apologised for Desmond's rude behaviour. She said, "On behalf of Desmond, I tender my apology and seek forgiveness." Vitriolic attacks against both Irom's supporters and opponents were posted regularly by Desmond on social media which are expected to affect her poll prospect.