[box type=”note” color=”green” size=”small” align=”left”] Is Ibobi guilty of similar unconcern for the ordinary people? His foreign tour coming while the state is reeling under a prolonged blockade, to which no end is in sight yet, is truly confounding. The chief minister better have a satisfactory explanation when he returns.[/box]
If tomorrow the agitators demanding the SADAR hills be upgraded to a full-fledged district want to end their strike after a discussion with the chief minister of the state, Okram Ibobi, it will not happen as the latter is, as reported in the press, on a foreign tour. The agitators will have to wait till the leader is back in station. The message this untimely travel is sending out to the public has been commented upon by so many columnists already and little is left to be said of the parallel this travel has with the Roman Emperor Nero, one of the most written about tyrants of history, playing fiddle while a devastating fire engulfed his city state of Rome. In equal measure one is tempted to quote another famous episode from history, that of Queen Marie Antoinette of France in the heady days before the French Revolution, in which queen is famously believed to have remarked, “Let them eat cake”, when she was told the French people do not have bread to eat.
But then, the disturbing question remains what if he chooses not to explain? There is nobody who can do anything about it, not the least his ministerial colleagues or his party bosses. In his nearly 10 years unbroken rule, the chief minister has ensure there is nobody who can challenge or influence him in any way. The notion of collective leadership is a long dead memory and the impression before everyone in the state is that only he makes the key government decisions and his colleagues are merely eager rubber stamps to approve whatever he suggests or intends to implement as government policy. But the blame is not to be on the ministerial team alone. Equally, the finger must be pointed at the people by and large, after all the leaders are where they are because the people chose them. In not exercising their right to franchise in the way that it is meant to, they have all surrendered a vital handle to democracy’s power. Because of this lack of discretion, today what our leaders do or fail to do, have ceased to be a factor in elections. Elections are instead decided by the depth of the pockets of the candidates. Since votes can be bought and sold for a price, no elected leader, not the least the chief minister, feel the need to acknowledge they are accountable to the people. So in all likelihood if the chief minister, after his return from his foreign jaunt, decides not to go through the ritual of an explanation, it is unlikely to make a dent on his prospects politically. This ought to be a matter of shame for the people, but this money worshiping state has lost this damning and yet refining quality called shame long ago. On the altar of easy money, they have surrendered every civilisational value handed down from generations and are ever ready to compromise anything for quick lucre.
To be fair, the chief minster did declare that his government would take any decision on the question of creation of any new district until the high-powered committee he had appointed headed by the chief secretary, D.S. Poonia, completed its study of their feasibility of the proposed new districts from the point of view of administrative convenience alone. The deadline for the term given to the committee being still a long way off, he probably is thinking that it would make no difference whether he is physically in the state or elsewhere. In a way, this is a way of strengthening the hands and importance of the ongoing probe by the committee. There is also perhaps a second message intended. He is telling the agitators that they cannot have their way even if they continue with their protest till kingdom comes: that the only determinant of the outcome in the end would be the government’s will forged by an objective study of the situation. But the point also is, the chief minister’s responsibility is not just to negotiate with the agitators, who it is now clear, are obdurate and would not climb down from their position, but also to ensure the highways which serve as the state’s lifeline are opened, if necessary even by the use of legitimate force the state is empowered with, so that goods traffic can resume. So if poor wage earners and their children have to miss a meal a day because of the blockade induced price rise, they too would have to wait till the chief minister returns. Since the chief minister also holds all the major portfolios of the state cabinet, including home and finance, his absence would be missed much more than normally would have been the case.