The crisis that the Manipur government is currently caught in on account of tussles for power within the ruling Congress, is not only shameful, but also harmful for the future of the state. Much of the chaos the state is in is on account of an almost complete erosion of the credibility of the establishment and therefore the loss of public faith in its ability or willingness to ensure justice. This being the case, practically anybody and everybody has begun taking the law into their hands, causing bandhs and blockades at the drop of a hat even for reasons as frivolous as the popular courting tradition of elopement and for police refusal to take action as per the wishes of the supposed aggrieved party. In fact this decay of credibility would rank amongst the top causes for the failure of the establishment to bring about an amicable solution to the problem of insurgency. To elaborate a little more, insurgency, any particular one for that matter, tends to become endemic because it shares a certain psychological constituency with the people amongst whom it has spawned. In the words of Frantz Fanon, the insurgents are like the “mailed fists” of this constituency, and they become in a profound way the vehicle by which the resentment of the people by and large are delivered at the oppressively rotting system. Put another way, this support of the people is not so much for the insurgents per se, but of the insurgents’ opposition to a system that is corrupt to the core, non-performing and with no credibility at all. The moral vacuum left by the ways of the establishment, is what is creating this constituency of resentment and a fertile nursery for the protest culture. Legitimising politics hence is the key to ending the chaos in this land.
It is to this decaying process of the government that the current bickering in the ruling formation of the Congress is adding, therefore destroying further the moral legitimacy of the established order. Absolutely nobody will have any doubt what the tussle is all about. All the smokescreens put up by the dissident group that all they are asking for is for them to be given cabinet berths in the name of ushering in good governance, cannot befool the people. No matter how many times the cabinet is reshuffled, there cannot possibly be any change for the better just as the same wine in different bottles can bring no difference to the quality of the wine. Manipur’s politics has come to be so completely condemned to a dreadful mediocrity that it does not matter much who holds which portfolio anymore, for nothing much has ever changed, and nothing much can, until the entire political culture has been overhauled. As of now, beginning from the top to the bottom of the government ladder, what each one wants is a share of the government contract works, therefore a share of what is pilfered from the profusely leaking government exchequer. Like it or not, with the exception of a very few, everybody in the government is either a government contractor or else a contract dispenser who takes a cut of the loot from the contracts he awards to the contractors. In this unholy equation, the nexus of vested interest is spread much wider. The bad jobs done by the contractors in order to make their illegal profits would then have to be covered up by a long hierarchy of the bureaucracy and the technocracy for their own percentage cuts of the loot. The supreme irony is, those given to bickering for ministerial posts have also often, like the Devil citing the scripture, flaunted patriotism and concern for Manipur’s territorial integrity as their alibis for scrambling for ministerial berths. Wasn’t it Samuel Johnson who famously said “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Those of us in Manipur surely would not miss the import of this bit of wisdom.
We do hope something is settled fast and the embarrassing agony of the people before the world is not extended any longer. In the meantime, chief minister Okram Ibobi, and whoever else comes to head the government in the future, should think of evolving a mechanism to stem such unseemly in-fights and public washing of dirty linens. A system of rule by consensus of all those in the government, those in the cabinet as well as outside, should be adopted so that nobody in the government feels left out, even in matters of sharing the spoils of office. They must strive to be a government in which, as is often said of the British system, every member is equal, and the chief minister is only the first amongst equals. Easier said than done, but Manipur’s contract award culture must also be given a complete makeover.