The attack on a BJP political rally at Thoubal two days ago was condemnable. Although nobody has claimed responsibility as to who the mob was affiliated to, it is anybody’s guess where this might be. The BJP which chose to hold the rally at Thoubal too would have actually been looking for such a confrontation. The constituency, it is well known is that of the chief minister, Okram Ibobi, and anybody who has been observing developments with an eye on the forthcoming elections would not hesitate to say there is hardly likely to be any contest here and Ibobi would win hands down. The chief minister, according to people with intimate knowledge of the constituency, has almost a cult following here, and his ardent supporters would do anything to ensure there isn’t even a wee bit of challenge to their hero’s supremacy. Not only is it a question of pride in an outlying district throwing up a chief minister of the state, but also of what the chief minister has done for the constituency and its people in tangible material terms. It is said that in the constituency there is not a single family today without a government job, and this is phenomenal in a state where unemployment is climbing to up the vicinity of 20 percent. In many other areas, there would be more families without a government job than those with one.
It is unlikely there was a mastermind behind the attack and the mob were just fanatical supporters of the chief minister wishing to show their loyalty in doing what they believed was in the interest of the man they literally worship. Little would they have realised they did more harm to the image of the man they thought they were helping. Remember the parable from the junior school text book of the ultra loyal monkey who wanted to kill the fly on the nose of his sleeping master with a club. Whatever the motivation behind the attack was, it must not be taken lightly. This is especially so because the Assembly elections are just about two months ahead and such act if allowed to go without penalty would become threatening for candidates who intend to stand against the chief minister. Not only this, if left unchallenged by the law, it may begin to encourage more in other constituencies supporting candidates currently in power, to take the law into their own hands. Since it is unlikely the government would pursue the Thoubal incident in earnest, perhaps it is only right for the Election Commission of India, ECI, to intervene. A strong message must be sent out now that such behaviour, regardless of which side of the electoral battle line the culprits belong, would not be tolerated at any cost.
But there are also other things of concern. If it is true that Thoubal has been favoured too disproportionately in reaping the benefits of the government, as is often charged, there would have to be something wrong. It is true any politician would like to nurture his constituency so as to ensure his longevity in politics, and indeed this is encouraged to officially sanctioned limits but the fact is, there is a limit. The local area development funds availed to all MLAs and MPs is meant precisely for this purpose, but anything beyond would have to be viewed with a degree of scepticism. If percentage of government employees recruited in the last 10 years in the Thoubal constituency (the period of Ibobi’s chief ministership) has soared far too much above the state’s average, the matter needs to be seen with a critical eye. If it is a question of private enterprises sprouting and spreading thereby generating employment, there can be little to question, for it is individual enterprise which made this possible, perhaps with institutional support such as easy credit facilities from the banks etc which also is perfectly legitimate. If on the other hand, it is a matter of distribution of government largess, then the familiar question would arise whether the chief minister is the leader of the state or of his constituency alone. But as we said, these are only serious speculations of what may be an infringement on the law and propriety, and in this sense an alert for everybody to be wary, but the more urgent concern is that of the attack on the BJP rally at Thoubal. The matter has already come up at the Rajya Sabha and it must now be pursued to its logical end in the state too so that the electoral accounts of the Assembly polls two months ahead is begun on a clean slate.