Public Issues and Elections: Exercising Political Rights Consciously

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    By Bijen Meetei
    Asstt. Professor
    Dept. of Political Science, Assam University, Silchar.

    Now election is round the corner. In fact, most of us will be exciting with all what is going to come about: campaign, banquet, money and of course politicians, who seldom meet public, will be certainly visiting each one of us at our own doorstep. It is the time one can be sure of getting “anything” if quest for. Even if one remains confining at home definitely something will come to him too. But, should we forget to evaluate what had happened during the last 5 years? Elections comes only once in five years and it will be fallacious on our part to let it pass silently. Instead, we need to retrospect what have been changed in the last term, and what need to be done in order to improve the condition in the coming years.

    In a sense, we are fortunate that election in Manipur is going to happen in a time when a lot of issues and scandals have been exposed and become focus of the media. The year 2011 was quite an important year in the recent history of Indian political system. A parliamentary procedure was initiated to impeach a judge of a High Court. There is Anna Movement against corruption; a Chief Minister of a state openly spoke in support of removing AFSPA, and charge sheeted many politicians and men in high positions for corruption and other criminal offenses. All this highlights problems of bad governance and misuse of people’s trust. In my mind, election is an opportune time to cleanse the political atmosphere that has been begrimed by personal ambitions of politicians.

    The central concern of the state, or in simpler term our representatives, is to improve the conditions of people’s lives by ameliorating systems of communication, transport, public distribution, welfare schemes, law and order etc. Citizens have the right and necessity to ask the state and the representative of the people to address these basic aspects of our lives. As Lord Bryce said the test of government is the welfare of the people. If they don’t and cannot perform basic functions such as protection of lives, securing justice, providing efficient administration of common affairs and bestowal of aid to citizens in their several occupations, what is the need of placing the authority and trust in their hands?

    The existing problems in Manipur are enormous too. To mention the least, every year there are economic blockades along its only two national highways which are in fact lifelines of the people of the state. Has any one of us witnessed any politicians promising with hundred per cent commitment to end this impasse? Pradip Phanjoubam recently exposed the insensitivity of the government which “continues to do little to either resolve the crisis or break the blockade by force, and seems only content to wait and watch till the agitators tire out”. It is not only in this issue of economic blockade but in all other issues that the so called people’s representatives remain hushed. For how many hours can we make use of electricity in a day? Why does government need to divide the people into VIPs (those who can pay some amount in order to have VIP connection) and non-VIPs. What about the water problem and awful conditions of roads? These are very basic existential issues forget about social unrest, unemployment, political and legitimacy crisis with which we are living today. I know most of us are familiar with these problems which have become a part of our normal life. However, how many of us really care about all this and raise these issues at the time of elections? During elections we are often swayed by money and personal loyalty, and in the process we forget to ask the basic question of our own life and living. Most of us remain oblivious to such questions like why there is a democratic process called election?

    We should realize the importance of election. It intends to ensure that the government will exercise its power with consent of the people. Put it differently, election lends legitimacy to the authority of the government. It is the only time when people can exercise power over the politicians and subject latter’s actions to people’s wishes. And this chance comes only once in five years. Then, why should we let it easily slipped away. If we keep selling the our invaluable votes just for few hundred will we be able to get what we are entitled to? In fact, we, the people are very weak. We are being whammed by dirty ideals and tricks of the candidates. As a matter of fact, our minds are being colonized not in the sense of physical occupation by any external force but in the sense of being unable to rise above the corrupt system. The idea that we will collect as many 100 notes as possible and let the election passed silently makes ourselves a dependent and put into a fetter. We need to ask ourselves what kinds of leaders are being produced at the end of the day. Are they the ones who understand our problems? Are they the ones who foresee our future? Are they the ones who are committed to sacrifice their personal interest for common good? I doubt many of them even have the idea of “common good” forget about putting effort to achieve that.

    It is high time that we sit back and review our own mentality towards election and our representatives. One should sense the necessity of selecting the right men as our leaders so that the authority we give them in trust is used with responsibility and care. Many of our problems would be resolved once we entrust our trust upon men of utmost personnel integrity, who know how to address our problems and have guts to materialize their election promises.

    If we don’t think for the common cause and remain overwhelmed by narrow interests, we will never be able to shatter our dependency. The world has changed and we need to change too. Until and unless we, the people wake up and make ourselves politically conscious we will remain colonized and exploited.

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