By Ningombam Bupenda Meitei
The dusk of the ongoing 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) with its most likely last parliamentary winter session in November-December 2013 has not only rung the bells in ears of every parliamentarian and potential winner in a coming election, but also has again brought back the significance of voter’s rights in India’s democratic electoral politics. The United Kingdom’s Westminster system of government which has been absorbed by India’s federal parliamentary system, has given only 3 votes in India’s parliament (2 votes in Lok Sabha and one vote in Rajya Sabha) for Manipur. History shows the fact that there was no local representative to represent Manipur in the Constituent Assembly while drafting the Constitution of India, though Manipur, Tripura and Khasi were represented by a non-local called G.S.Guha. In today’s scenario where Manipur has been represented by the locals themselves from the state in the very same Parliament where Guha represented Manipur many decades back, the question of either less trusting or having more faith in its very own people’s representatives makes the people of Manipur not only to self judge in electoral politics but also opens the inevitable discussion on who could be the Member of Parliament for 16th Lok Sabha 2014 from Inner Manipur. The following articles on the same heading mentioned above shall be considered to focus on Inner Manipur’s representation to Lok Sabha only.
The question ‘Who could be the M.P. (Member of Parliament) from Inner Manipur in 16th Lok Sabha 2014?’ is different from ‘Who should be the M.P. (Member of Parliament) from Inner Manipur in 16th Lok Sabha 2014?’. The change of word from ‘could’ to ‘should’ could be a mere semantic change but its significance in the context of political transformation in power politics, has not only changed the electoral wishes but also has evolved both the state and the representative’s vision. Such evolution in the mindset of both the voters and electoral candidate, could change the course of future history of Manipur recording a moment of development politics.
When I met with Union Minister of State in the present United Progressive Alliance –II government, who is from one of the north eastern states of India, the minister opined on the range and type of issues raised in the parliament. He expected parliamentary discussions to be more of national and international issues pertaining to India and its global image in international community, than of having a detailed discussion on local issues which could be discussed in their respective state assembly. It was his personal view point but the reality is, depending on who is the political leader raising the issue on the floor of the House in New Delhi, the issue gets its weightage and value more by his or her personality than those issues raised by a small party or independent candidate or a politician with less political clout in India at least. The Constitution of India yet guarantees every right equally to all the MPs in the parliament.
The notion whether someone who understands the hearts and minds of the people of Inner Manipur should be sent by its own people or some other who represents the ruling party in the state should be sent by its own people, could be only decided in a sealed Electronic Voting Machine in 2014 if the Lok Sabha election is held in 2014. The presentation of the will of the people of Inner Manipur cannot be kept aside and taken for granted thinking that electoral politics is merely about a number game which usually comes once in every 5 years. The potential candidates for coming Lok Sabha in Inner Manipur could be a few or many, but interestingly, most of them rather all of them would be above 60 years and in the rarest of the rare case, there could be an odd Manipuri of age below 40 standing out to contest at the minimum. Joining electoral politics has become a natural hobby for most of the retired civil servants, university teachers and yesterday’s social workers in today’s Manipur while yesteryear’s renowned political leaders across the party lines and over the globe have been witnessed by mankind in the form of their young leadership with its youthful energy driving the youths – the future of every civilization. A true politician does not join politics when he or she gets retired at 60 in any part of the world where there is a democracy. In the case of Manipur, just like small children in pre-primary level taking admission in Catholic schools or Protestant schools or state-run schools or public schools or private schools, there is a sudden increase of a new admission to political parties. The point is, like any professor having spent decades to become a full fledged professor after acquiring academic credentials, he or she enjoys the status and intellectual acceptance of being a professor in an academic circle, similarly, joining politics is just a mere beginning of the entire process of becoming the most trusted servant of the people in people’s democracy like India. If standing at the feet of the Himalayas is joining politics, then trekking over it would be doing politics, and ultimately standing on the top of it could be a becoming of a politician, and yet, the vision of statesmanship remains much more higher than just being on the top as a mere politician. Doing politics is a long process with long term plan for decades but not for some mere vacations for some years. Doing politics is the most complex service of all the human services because it is indeed the major cause of human civilizational shift and its evolution, as man is a political animal. Joining politics is just an activity of a mere fraction of seconds that are required to actually sign on the party paper of allegiance and admission to the party, yet the decision to join which party could be a herculean task for some and need not be for all, while some could remain as independent political candidate in every election.
Manipur state governments which were known for their instability and change according to the political winds blown from New Delhi in the past, have now been stopped after the Anti-Defection Law ( see para 2 (1) (a) and 2 (1) (b) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, 52nd Amendment Act 1985). The imposition of President Rule unlike in the past, is difficult to discuss in the North Block of New Delhi for Manipur if tomorrow Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India. At the same time, if tomorrow whosoever becomes the MP, could he or she be able to represent the issue of Inner Manipur by not only merely stating on the floor of the House but convincing the Prime Minister ( whether Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi or the PM) in the 7th Race course of New Delhi. The point is how strong is the lobby of Imphal in the inner coterie of both Rahul Gandhi in Tuglaq Lane and Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar, and the answer is not only difficult but simply negligible, but before it becomes impossible, time has come for Imphal think-tank to understand how politics actually works inside the ring of actual ruler and his or her inner advisors in power politics of India. Manipur’s only Rajkumar Jaichandra Singh, a fomer Union Minister of state and classmate of Rajiv Gandhi in The Doon is no more, now,who could be someone from Manipur who can sip coffee or tea with Rajiv Gandhi’s son in his Delhi residence or Amethi to discuss issues of Manipur, India and the world on daily basis or at least on weekly basis, the answer to it will take one more generation to reply. Is there any Manipuri to whom Narendra Modi listens to and takes advice from him or her on weekly basis at least? Yet, both potential Prime Ministers of India have no direct representation from Manipur in their pragmatic inner system. Can any new entrant simply jump in the lobby of 7th Race course then? The answer is obvious ‘No’. The pride of being Manipuri in number game of politics in New Delhi stands nowhere and in today’s capitalist world, the pragmatics of working economy of the state matters a lot in influencing New Delhi. Manipur which is a poor state and its economically poor and hence politically weak government could be tomorrow’s Hong Kong and Shanghai if Look East Policy is understood and executed by our MPs both politically, diplomatically and economically besides its human touch with South East Asia. The visionary philosophy of our MP could only transform Imphal to world class model city because the quality of the MP depends on the quality of its electorates.
The recent issues of Manipur vs Myanmar diplomatic engagement over Myanmarese army’s occupation of India’s soil in the state of Manipur, the recent demand of Meiteis to be included in ST (Scheduled Tribe) category which has been heard by the Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, the ongoing Look East Policy of India pertaining to South East Asia through Imphal which will connect with the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea, and recent Dr.Manmohan Singh’s engagement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Look Further East Policy, possible international waterways navigation in Imphal ( which were possible for Japanese troops to sail through Nambul river in the world war to reach Imphal) by linking with neighboring international rivers, possible metro railways (which have started in many state capitals of India) in Imphal which are to be discussed under Union List, besides issues like drinking water problem, drainage system and electricity in Imphal which come under state and concurrent lists of the Constitution. The need for development politics is the call of the day for the people of Inner Manipur or Manipur valley and indeed for any democracy. May the 2014 Lok Sabha bring a new chapter in the political history of Manipur in India’s politics at least.
(The writer is a member of International Network in Biolinguistics in which Prof. Noam Chomsky is also a member. The writing meant for pre-2014 Lok Sabha (Inner Manipur) election expressing personal views, is a part of the writer’s exclusive series – On Member of Parliament for 16th Lok Sabha 2014 from Inner Manipur.)