Governance by demand

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It is a scathing commentary on the quality of political leadership in Manipur that governance in the state, especially on important and sensitive matters, has been all along a knee-jerk reaction affair. The familiar pattern has been and still is, for the government to recede into activity for long periods, either caught in politicking marked by activities such as demands for reshuffles in the ministry by legislators wishing for their shares of the spoils of power, or else simply surrendering to what Foucault famously called `governmentality`. In `governmentality`, typically all grand political visions and promises of statesmanship which generally come to the fore at the time of elections, tend to take the back seat after the government is formed, with the daily mundane bureaucratic and clerical routines of petty file works and other familiar rituals, having their own dynamics, some compelling others born out of vested interests, in this case institutionalised corruption, nepotism etc, taking over charge of governance. With certain variations, this is a universal character of all governments, and to some extent or the other, all lapse into `governmentality`. As has been critiqued by many scholars, it is not as if this `governmentality` is unimportant. Without it, no democratic government can sustain its energy through its entire term. Consequently, it is also true that even if all the politicians take a holiday together at one time, `governmentality` will ensure the government continues to run its routine course, drearily perhaps, but as steadily as it always was.

The difference between one government and another then would be the sustained direction different political leaderships are able to rise about `governmentality`. Ideally, the political leadership should be able to be able to be always on the steering wheel of the government and routinely remind itself of its political mission, and provide direction to the auto pilot governance that `governmentality` provides so conveniently and necessarily. These visions need not only to be refreshed periodically, but also reworked from time to time, in keeping with the demands of the changing times. This will also entail the ability for the political leadership to anticipate future needs and troubles and accordingly seek changes in policy directions. This is exactly where Manipur has failed almost completely very often. The trend has been, after the government has been formed, the rest is left to the auto-pilot governance mechanism, until it runs into big trouble. No need to elaborate on this at least. The present trouble in the wake of the demand for the Inner Line Permit System going violent is the most recent reminder. Now that trouble has broken out, threatening not the least the continuance of government, the political leadership has swung into action, passing and withdrawing bills, holding consultative meetings with legal experts, studying land laws of other states as well as the constitutional permissibility of various proposals on the subjects, etc.

The question is, why did the government have to wait for desperate uprisings on the streets for it to begin considering these changes in policy direction? Why did it not see the people`™s general apprehension of a demographic overturn and pre-empt trouble by seeking the introduction of legislations aimed at regulating this population inflow? If it had been this far-sighted, and before any confrontations with the public became necessary done the needful, probably it would have been able to come up with a more lenient and reasonable law on the matter. Now it is being pushed to do nothing less than the extreme, and in all likelihood would not be able to satisfy most, if not all, whatever it ends up doing. It has also ended up between the proverbial devil and deep sea, for it is unlikely an extremely restrictive law on migrant inflow would not be shot down by the Central government and an extremely soft one would be accepted by the violent and coercive brand of politics on the streets that the state has become so accustomed to. Instead of the political leadership leading from the front, steering the state through calm as well as troubled waters, governance in the state has been more in the nature of stimulus-response equation, in which people are led to take out violent agitations against government inaction on issues they consider as vital and government deciding to respond to these demands when things go out of control.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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