As expected, the framework agreement signed between the Government of India and NSCN-IM on August 3, 2015 has emerged as the principal point of debate and the central issue of the ensuing 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election. As the crucial election draws nearer and nearer, poll strategies of the two main contenders namely Congress party and BJP are becoming crystal clear. While BJP has been targeting the Congress Government’s infamous track record on corruption and human rights violation, particularly fake encounter cases, Congress party has been literally punching BJP for its dubious dealing with the peace talk going on between New Delhi and NSCN-IM.
If the big advertisements published in media by the two rival political parties are any indication, propaganda machinery of both the camps are working overtime to discredit each other. They are literally demonising each other while projecting themselves as the only saviour of this troubled land called Manipur. So far, the two sets of propaganda churned out by the rival camps are quite hard-hitting yet the words used and how they are articulated lacks refinement. Yes, corruption is one all-pervading issue of Manipur. At the same time, territorial integrity is something sacrosanct to a vast majority of the citizens of Manipur. Here, one would like to ask whether the cancerous problem of corruption should be tackled first or the uncertainty over the territorial integrity of Manipur must be resolved first. The answer may vary from one political party to another and for that matter from one citizen to another. Yes, none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged at Imphal in front of a huge gathering that the Framework Agreement does not contain anything which may affect the integrity of Manipur and its territorial boundary. While the Congress party has been asking why the framework agreement is being kept a closely guarded secret if it contains anything inimical to the interest of Manipur, many civil society organisations have been campaigning to elicit the contents and other details of the agreement.
Political mud-slinging has reached the highest crescendo. Playing blame-game just for the sake of winning election is not what the people of Manipur expect from the two big contenders. Of course, both the Congress party and the BJP have picked very crucial issues as their poll agenda which are equally appealing to the masses. While BJP’s arsenal of propaganda primarily comprises of corruption and misgovernance, Congress party’s weaponry mainly consists of territorial integrity and the framework agreement. Even though both the political parties have pledged to safeguard the territorial integrity of Manipur at all costs, they seem to have different priorities, if we are not mistaken.
Here we would like to point out that there should be no order of precedence when it comes to rampant corruption and territorial integrity. Just as rampant corruption eats up the vitals of a society, any challenge to the territorial integrity threatens the very idea of Manipur. In another word, the twin agenda of corruption or abolition of corruption and territorial integrity should go hand in hand. Prioritising one over another would be suicidal for a corruption-infested Manipur is like a dying man while a fragmented Manipur is as good as dead.
Amidst all the tall claims and counter-claims, abusive allegations and counter-allegations, what is conspicuous by its absence is the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958. Yes, anti-AFSPA crusader Irom Chanu Sharmila is contesting the election from Thoubal AC, the home constituency of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi and the Congress party, in its manifesto, says that it would work to get AFSPA repealed from all over Manipur. But AFSPA is absent from the election manifesto which is in power at the Centre.
Just as absence of AFSPA from the election manifesto of BJP is disheartening, it is hard to believe that its presence in rival Congress party’s manifesto would bring anything positive if the Congress party’s dealing with the infamous law during the past 15 years was any indication. After all political parties seldom fulfill their election manifestoes. Or should we subscribe to the sarcastic remark, “election is the biggest festival of democracy”?
Source: The Sangai Express