Parliamentary Elections and Manipur: The relevance and the issues

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By Amar Yumnam

Parliamentary elections this year are going to be the most significant one after the one held during the Indira Gandhi regime. In that election, the people of the country came down heavily on the repressions during the Emergency. The very Emergency imposed and excesses committed under it in the country were very authoritarian approach to continue the hold of power of a particular group of elites, and the fight-back too was mainly engineered by the elites. Thus fundamentally, the hold of the elites on Indian politics was still intact and still continues. But this time round the wind of changes affecting the Indian polity is qualitatively very different from the one under the aftermath of the Emergency.

Fundamentally the politics so far has remained an exercise of the art and science of political trickery involving promises of the heaven but delivering near hell-like outcomes, mobilising groups of unreasonable followers on the basis of promised favouritisms, campaigning on misleading propaganda devoid of critical issues of the society, and the like. The elections in 2014 are going to be very different from these and the signs of these are already salient. The digital impact is already visible in the Indian society. This widening and deepening digital impact on the society has made the people much more conversant with the problems of the society and the illusionary efforts of the politicians while making the displeasures spread faster and wider. This has given an opportunity to a new generation of educated and concerned population to become players in the political arena and active participants in the democratic process. This group of population are articulate, non-corrupt, highly conversant with the roots and issues plaguing the country and determined to affect changes in the policy and policy-making processes in this country. They are highly networked too. This has given a force and a platform to the hitherto suppressed anguish and dissatisfactions among the general population. It is this convergence between the emerging digital society and the new generation politicians which is going to make the 2014 parliamentary elections a turning point and an epochal one; it is going to be a tipping point.

Winds of change are visible in Manipur too. In this province, parliamentary elections have always been a case of buttressing the support base of the party in power at the provincial level at the time of elections. In other words, these elections have never had an importance different from the assembly elections, and thereby people voting for the candidate the current representatives to the provincial Assembly desire them to vote for. In still other words, voting for the parliamentary elections was a means to earn the favour of the representatives to the provincial legislatures. But unlike in the past, the general population in Manipur too have developed an awareness of the significance of the elections to the Indian parliament for addressing the issues of the province. This is where the importance of exercising utmost care in choosing the candidate to vote for representing us in the parliament lies. Manipur has so far remained peripheral in the national policy making process with the core issues of the society here never finding a mention in the national core policy formulation; it is as if the problems of the peripheral regions are to be addressed as residuals of the ‘mainstream’ policy evolutions. We can no longer afford to follow the same routine. This time, we need to be very sure about the leanings, thought processes, personal articulation on issues of Manipur and the proven commitment of the candidates on taking the hitherto ‘peripheral’ issues to the core of the country’s policy making process. In this context, I would like to mention a few issues on which we need to be very sure about the perspective of any candidate for the forthcoming elections.

Infrastructure for meaningful social existence is still a core issue for Manipur. Any candidate should spell out what is his/her take on this and the vision thereof. The foundations and orientation of the vision should also be clearly spelt out.

Second, the time has come for a concrete and meaningful – given history, culture, demography and geography- formulation of the international relationship policy involving the countries in the South East and East Asia. Every candidate in Manipur should put before the public the personal views and perspectives on this.

Third, India can no longer afford to continue with the present model of Centre-State relationships, and particularly so for the border areas like Manipur. All the candidates should articulate for public consumption their personal agenda on this, keeping in mind the ethos and needs of Manipur.  

The absence of a scope for emergence of entrepreneurship has been the marring feature of the development transformation in Manipur. We would certainly like to hear the perspective for addressing this issue from all the candidates. This perspective would have tremendous implications for the inter-ethnic relationships in Manipur as well.

Another issue troubling the minds of the people of Manipur relates to territory, border included. The public need to have in full view the perspective of each candidate on this score.

In fine, the fundamentality of selecting a candidate – who can articulate, speak and make the parliament listen to the perspective of Manipur as a core perspective on issues afflicting the region – as representative is paramount now. Waiting for the next opportunity would be too costly in this fast changing world.  

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