By Bobo Khuraijam
The speech was short. It could have been a little longer. Someone from the crowd complained. Once it got started so many joined in with more complain. A candidate should always wear a smile. A candidate should perform bhakti without a sign of reluctance. A candidate should greet everyone. A candidate should never disclose her fatigue.Complains seemed to have gone longer than the voters list yet it had to be acknowledged. After all it was the voters’ complain to their candidate. It was the flag hoisting day for eche Jamuna- an important day for her, her family and her voters.Her symbol flew sky high with the windswirling. It was a blue aeroplane on a white flag. A good number of voters had turned up. Passengers’ vehicles hired for the day drank gallons of fuel that day. Half the portion of the windscreen was covered with posters. Also written was the name of the village or polling station where the passengers had come from. Women voters attired in traditional costumes got down from the vehicles. They arrived in a queue with athenpot on their head. A tiny flag with the symbol sat on the athenpots. The flag on top of the white rice grain reminded us of Himalayan summits in our school books.Number of athenpots would be the impending indication of an electoral summit. It was all for echeJamuna who had reluctantly come out to contest election in the Panchayat.
BEHIND THE BACKDROP: of the stage, male members of her family were busy charting out the programe of the day.EcheJamuna’s younger brother had been elected for JillaParishad for two consecutive terms. By virtue of his hard work he has been able to buy a JCB of brand new. Frankly, that giant metal in rich yellow looked stunning against the ordinary rural greenery. We were told that her beauty caught the unwelcome attention of a powerful man:the MLA of the constituency. A Jilla Parishad’s jurisdiction covers a good area of an assembly constituency. A man who has won two consecutive terms in Jilla Parishad, on top of that; a man who had owned a JCB could be a threat to the MLA’s chair.His third term could widen his sphere of influence. So to retain his seat he had been gearing up for the last so many days. His visible presence in helping people got more pronounced from the month of March,the month of Yaoshang. Electorate Shabi-Shanou came to collect alms for tube lighted discotheque. Senior citizen Gopas & Gopis of ShrimatiRadhika and Shri Krishna played Holi in his courtyard to the glory of Brindavan. He appreciated their performance prostrating himself with Indian currency notes. He contributed money for every ‘social work’ of the leikai. He visited the ailing in the village. He made himself noticeable in every Dharma & Karma. But all his effort seemed to have gone into the drain when an announcement came. It came like special effect lightening in crowd-pleasing movies. Yes, the one similar to those sceneswhen a character of the story got inflicted by cancer. It was declared that the seat he dreamt to retain got reserved for women. Then, what next? Who among his two wives could be the candidate? A family meeting of the male members decided that echeJamuna should be the candidate.
An unmarried sister who had been a helping hand to everyone, who had stoically stood behind her brother; for women’s reservation, she is going to fight the election. Eche Jamunas hared to us with blasé that she had never spoken in front of a large crowd. She was not comfortable with the kind of attention rained on her. What she thought of speaking at the end or beginning of speech would get mixed-up like the ingredients of an eromba. Her legs would not hold the ground firmly during a speech.Her role in the previous elections was totally different,gaily, she told. From mending unnoticed shortcomings to attending rallies, she would involve herself whenever the situation demands.She impishlyremembers how she mixed sekmai with water in a giant tumbler, made it into sachets to meet the heavy demands from the voters. She would forget to take food. And now, she is the focus of everyone. Would she become a rubber stamp of her brother? Would she be able to evolve herself and assert the womenself ? Time will tell.
JOBCARD: has been able to bring spotlight to the Panchayat election. How colourful and exuberant it has become! The smile of candidates in life-size and multi-colour posters is no lesser than the cinema hoardings. Recorded telecast of the flag hoisting ceremonies over the local cable TV, some would called it overpaid news. We love it anyways. The assembly election which took place in recent times couldn’t match the spectacle. Honeyed rhetoric of the artistes from the sumanglila and video films added spirit to our viewership. They educate us on Panchayati Raj. What are three tier systems? What and why of women reservation. That Napolian Bonaparte said ‘give me a good mother’. That MNREGS is one of the most beautiful schemes of India GORMENT. That Manipur will become a prosperous state with Panchayati Raj. Well, we fondly remember how we started musing. It was the last Panchayat election. We had submitted with venom full of malice that it is like throwing democracy into the Mahavalimonkeys to flourish. We still stand by that, sitting on the Leipung.
FOOTNOTE: thank you Yawolloi brothers for the thunderbolt in the crowded place. There was no casualty. LeipungNingthou calls it, “camera film yaodadanamamitahoudaba”.