Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday demanded the resignation of Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh for his failure to end the ongoing economic blockade which has affected the availability of essential commodities in the region.

Javadekar was interacting with the media at the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office during his visit here to hold discussions for short-listing candidates for the ensuing assembly elections.

Manipur will elect a new 60-member state assembly in two-phased polls on March 4 and 8.

The BJP leader said: "The Constitution clearly says that the central government can't do anything about law and order since it is a state subject. Still, we are extending help to him by dispatching 40 companies of paramilitary forces.

"Instead of using them in maintaining law and order along the highways, the security personnel have been kept in the barracks. Since he has failed to defuse the crisis, he should resign. In any case, he will be ousted this time, but people see no reason to wait until the elections."

Javadekar further said: "In the larger interest of the suffering people, the central government had arranged tripartite talks between the Centre, the state government and the United Naga Council, which has imposed the blockade since November 1."

"But the meeting could not be held as no representative from the state government was sent for the talks," he charged.

Ibobi had told IANS that there was no formal invitation. Also, "since Manipur is at the extreme border, officials cannot be rushed to Delhi at a moment's notice", he added.

People continue to suffer due to shortage of essential items. Fuel is rationed, though there is no dearth in the black market. Cooking gas cylinders are being sold for Rs 2,000 each in the black market.

The Manipur High Court had directed the government to provide adequate security to the vehicles plying on the highways.

The state government has complained that while it sought 60 companies of central paramilitary forces, so far only 29 companies have been sent.

More than 500 loaded trucks and oil tankers bring various items to Manipur every second day from Assam. But owing to the lack of mechanism to check hoarding, a large proportion of the items do not reach the open market.

During the blockade, there have been instances of drivers and police personnel having been ambushed to disrupt supplies to the strife-torn state.

Javadekar held closed-door consultations with the state BJP and other national leaders in charge of the Northeast. The short-listed names of BJP nominees will be submitted to the central committee and the final list of candidates is expected to be announced next week.

The party will be fielding candidates in all the 60 constituencies of the Manipur assembly.

There are more than six BJP aspirants in each constituency and all of them have started their respective election campaign. This is causing confusion among the voters.

At the directive of the party, however, the aspirants in some constituencies recently publicly pledged to support the ones who get the ticket.