We wish there are at least some gravity left in Manipur politics. The idea of the captain not abandoning his ship even when it is sinking may sound tragic and foolhardy, but it infuses a sense of grandeur and total commitment to cause, capable of inspiring generations to also be steadfast in their belief in the worthiness of a common destiny and working together to achieve it. Alas, Manipur’s brand of politics is not made for such grandeur, and as in any banana republic, the leaders are content with looking after themselves, although under the guise of self-proclaimed public service. In the last few months of life of the current Assembly, there has been considerable unsettling stirs within the political arena of the state, and as anticipated, our politicians have begun trading loyalty. We hope it does not get as bad as in Arunachal Pradesh when the entire ruling Congress party, with the exception of one, decided to leave camp and align themselves with their former sworn rival, the BJP. Not that we have anything against any particular party, but we wish our politicians were not so fickle and did not make personal loyalty and ideology tradable. In this sense, what we witnessed in Arunachal Pradesh recently was even more tragic than captains of sinking ships choosing a watery grave than to evacuate and live another day. It is even more tragic, because there is no grace in the latter. It also only inspires public disdain, except those of sycophantic camp followers. The immediate gains and losses of individuals and parties notwithstanding, in the long run, it can only erode public faith in politics, and worse still, the establishment itself. The consequences of such a predicament are anybody’s guess, and indeed, Manipur is familiar with this in the lawlessness that has become its daily reality.
It is clear even from now that the coming Assembly election early next year will revolve around two poles – that of the Congress and the BJP. There will be other parties, but they can at best hope to be the satellites of these two big players. When the election comes, the Congress would have completed three terms, and all three terms under one chief minister. This is an indication of its strong presence and hold on Manipur politics, but this strength can no sooner become its Achilles heel. Fifteen years is a long time for any single party to be in power. Fifteen years at the helm would have ensured the party great degrees of entrenched support bases but the familiarity brought by 15 years of rule, or misrule as the case may be, itself would have brought in considerable contempt amongst a great section of the public and therefore a mood for change. The Congress’ main obstacle hence would be to overcome this mood of anti-incumbency, and this mood is palpable and widespread today. The BJP is shaping its strategy to take advantage of this mood, and nobody can deny it is succeeding so far. The party has had virtually no base in the state so far, but vacuum has been adequately compensated this time by certain extraneous factors boosting its prospect in the state. The first is the BJP’s return to power in New Delhi. Politicians in small dependent states of the Northeast generally feel more secure standing by the party in power at the Centre, and what we saw in Arunachal Pradesh was a reminder of this. The BJP returned no MLAs in the last Manipur Assembly election, held while the Congress was still in power in New Delhi, but in the bye election to two seats after BJP wrested power at the Centre, both the seats returned BJP, thus giving the party a presence in the Assembly. This trend is also what we are witnessing currently as Congress MLAs begin to trickle into the BJP camp.
However the important question is, can the state BJP rely totally on the weakness of the ruling Congress alone to win the people’s confidence? If the majority of the Congress MLAs decided to switch loyalty and walk over to its camp, probably the party may increase its chances of getting more seats in the next Assembly, but literally it would begin to look more and more like Congress by another name. It is legitimate for any party to look to take advantage of the weakness of its rivals and poach their assets by any means, but can this be its sole sustenance? In the end, it is a party which wins on its own merit, creativity and strength, which will earn the respect and confidence of the people. No genuine political leader will doubt such a victory is vital in ensuring a democratic government flourish. We do hope all the parties in the fray, in particular the Congress and BJP remind themselves of this and do not make a spectacle of the state’s politics.
Source: Imphal Free Press