2014 Parliamentary Elections: Path-Breaking for the Rest of India and Parasitism in Manipur

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By Amar Yumnam

I am post-1947 child. So I am not aware of what happened to the elections in this country till the 1960s. But since the 1970s, I have either seen extensively myself or, in cases where I was away from the election scene, I have heard and read about the Indian elections. So at least from this period, I can afford to give a relative comment on the recent elections.

India has never witnessed the kind of elections like the recent referendum on Modi – it was either one likes or dislikes him. The ultimate result has turned out to be an absolute vote confirming the liking for him across space, except of course the case of the politically insignificant Manipur.

India had an opportunity for indigenising the evolutionary trajectory in 1947 by breaking away from the path imposed by the colonists. In fact, the Father of the Nation did emphasise the necessity and significance of evolution of a home-based – institutionally and geographically – development path by breaking away from the one of the colonists. But Nehru thought otherwise, immersed as he was in the deep Western ideas, norms and policies, and he prevailed over Gandhi as the personal ages favoured him. For Nehru, Westernisation was the only option India had to move forward. Since this exogenous model helped the Congress Party to win elections by temporarily luring the people to a world they could only dreamt of, the Party stuck to it since the days of Nehru.

But the disconnect between the Nehruvian model and the Indian social reality has had inter alia two disastrous effects. One, the model failed to deliver the promises. Two, the endogenous crises of the Indian society continued to linger. The Indian population have been looking for options to get out of these institutional crises but to no avail. The political route was so overwhelmingly dominated by the Nehruvian Westernisation thinking with little, if any, relationship with the indigenous social institutions and the geographic realities such that they had to remain attached to the Congress Party. There have been experiments with Morarji Desai, V. P. Singh and Atal Behari Vajpayee, but unfortunately the stranglehold of the Congress regime and legacy have been powerful enough to more than neutralise the impact of these experiments.

This is where Modi came into the picture. The longings of the people for an institutionally and geographically endogenous political route have remained and have only deepened over the years. Modi turns out to be the main deeply conscious of this longing of the people. The very personal family background of him, for which the Congress thought of worthy inviting him to open a tea-stall in their meetings, must have enabled him to feel the core sense of the yearnings of the Indian populace. This must have also given him the capability to turn every attack of the Congress Party back to themselves and make them his foundation for connecting with the people. The disconnect of the Congress Party with the Indian population has not yet been so wonderfully exposed.

The agenda and articulations for the elections are so different in the case of Modi. He has shown an astute understanding of the Indian populations’ institutional and geographical longings. He has also mastered the necessity of addressing the core imperative for endogenising the transformation trajectory of the land and people of India. All his articulations during the campaign for the elections and the victory addresses in Vadodara and Varanasi testify to this. The essential power of Modi lies in the coupling of this understanding by a capability to deliver when in authority as exemplified by the recent Gujarat experience. This is a heady wine for the population looking for relevance, participation and share in the development trajectory of the country for all these years under the Congress hold.

But contrast all these with what has happened in Manipur. The two persons elected from here are not founded on their strengths of past performance and future promises. They should be forever grateful to their party members to the current provincial government for they would have been nowhere without their commitment. Now the question is: why have not the people of Manipur disconnected the party in power from the exercise of their franchise for electing representatives to the parliament while it has been so in the rest of the country. We can immediately think of four explanations here. First, the institutional and the geographic implications of policies emanating from the Indian parliament have so far been non-significant for Manipur. Second, there has been very little co-movements between the general Indian development trajectory and the Manipur one. Third, the scope for people developing hope for future livelihood expansion has been so closely tied with the nearness to the people in power in this province.

There has not been any meaningful expansion of livelihood opportunities outside of the government sector. So the people have to be necessarily parasitic to the power that be in the case of Manipur. Fourth, Manipur is now a place fully occupied by parasitism. In the wake of attaining the Statehood in the beginning of the 1970s, people were so hugely engaged in nationalism and development. The enthusiasm of the people while voting for the Manipur Peoples Party was very salient. But the performance of the Party when in power turned out to be much less powerful than the lobbying capability of the Congress Party, and thus proved wanting on delivery. This beating of nationalism got doubled up by the character of the non-state agents as well who have of late produced only self-serving contractors in the name of nationalism. So while nationalism played a big role in the rest of India in the just concluded elections, it (whether in the form of Indian nationalism or Manipur nationalism) had no role whatsoever in the case of Manipur. Parasitism has taken roots in Manipur. This, however, will not take the land and the people any distance. The biggest challenge today is breaking this inertia. The prevailing governance would leave a historical and path breaking legacy if it builds this capability among the people of Manipur. Let history judge.

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