TODAY -

Parties, Problems Aplenty and No Election Issues: Manipur as usual?

Amar Yumnam *



With the elections for the State Assembly in Manipur getting closer, there are already active not-so-covert political mobilisations. These are visible and felt across the State. But the question to be asked at this moment and asked without fail is: Are the Elections in Manipur going to be non-issue based as before?

If this is so, is Manipur so calm and peaceful? If this is so, is Manipur progressing well on the development trajectory? Manipur displayed a strong vibrant picture of democratic polity and articulation of peoples’ issues in the Elections held soon after attaining full-fledged Statehood in the beginning of 1970s. For some time it looked like that this inherent collective articulation of shared issues would sustain and would take us far. However, this did not happen. Sooner than later the elections turned out to be individual-based battles instead of on shared collective issues.

This deterioration still continues and getting much worseover time. This transition from short-time occupation with collective based issues in the early seventies to the present one has definitely resulted in the multiplication of socio-politico-economic issues. While in the beginning these issues were collectively shared and collectively articulated, these are now characterised by absolute opportunism at different levels and layers of colouring. These are now much more complex with secret articulations and non-collective vibrations of mobilisations. Divisiveness is the norm rather than coherence today. This is visible in every problem.

The social manifestation of this is the absence of coherent articulation of any issue and resulting in stunting the social articulation for shared collective mobilisations. While diversity has resulted, with contextualised policy interventions, in positive socio-politico-economic outcomes, divisiveness has yet to see as yielding social progress anywhere in the globe. Both mythology and historygive us ample examples of the richness and strength of diversity in Manipur, but the present scenario is one of an uncontrolled and unconcerned move towards divisiveness. There are no signs of generalised development processes here.

The earlier strength of diversity is now the bane for collective social coherence. The governance also displays non-concern for these trends. It is as if the collective has moved the full-circle to the individual aggrandisement. These are very disturbing times for Manipur. The armed insurgency in the 1980s was open and the articulations were in the public domain. In such circumstances, the response of the governance also can be charted out in more or less clear terms; the issue of shared acceptability is a different matter.

But today, the layers and varied colours of articulation and mobilisation are such that these affect the worse-off sections of the population adverselyin a wider and deeper manner. In other words, the inequalising trend is such that the poorer sections cannot even articulate and mobilise themselves for their shared tragedy. This incapacitation is one of the most tragic impacts of the quality of governance Manipur has had in recent years.

Now this incapacitation and the non-articulation of shared collective issues are happening at a time when the regional, national and international dynamics of positive social progress are unfolding in a faster pace now. It is in this background and the prevailing social reality that the Next Assembly Elections are fast approaching with a likelihood that these might even be held a few months ahead of the normal due.

As the social problems are getting deeper and wider and the gap between required and achieved performance of governance gets widened, the people of Manipur naturally expect something now. They are interested to know as to what are the promised areas of social policy formulation by the various political parties. In this two parties are of significance, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Let us look at the Congress Party.

This party has never shown appreciation of the diversified requirements for policy interventions in this demographically and geographically diverse country. This has always sought to normalise problems and policy interventions; converting diverse problems into a uniform one and attempt to address these through a singularly uniform policy have been the approach all along. Further, the highly centrist orientation of the party has not created capacity at the provincial levels to articulate problems and contextualise interventions.

In fact, the party has not welcomed the need for such approaches. This may be the reason why the Congress Party has not yet shown any need for a new articulation or re-emphasis for social policy formulation; the long years of experiencing with winning the elections in Manipur might have given them a mastery over the knack for winning almost to the extent of taking the people for granted. Since the Congress Party has been continuing with their usual approach of non-articulation on shared collective issues, we are naturally inclined to look at the other only potential challenger to this party. I am talking of BJP.

Reports are abuzz of many aspiring candidates and many others thronging the BJP for tickets for the forthcoming Assembly Elections. Since the Congress and their Government do not have a track-record of performance on social, political and economic fronts worthy of being proud of, one would naturally expect a robust articulation of the problems and potential responses from the BJP.

This expectation is further heightened by the manifest interest of the BJP-led government at the Centre on the issues of the region. Unfortunately this does not seem to be coupled by endeavours by the provincial wing of BJP to articulate and bring to the notice of the people of Manipur the problems and the responses.

For some time, particularly till about the by-elections to the two Assembly seats, the party displayed some vibrancy and dead-bent orientation for providing a robust alternative to the Congress. But of late the Party looks like to have lost the agenda for fighting the next elections. We are still looking for the public manifestation of the party’s agenda for the forthcoming elections and the reasons why the people of Manipur should take it seriously.

The Centre is visible and the State wing is not on this. In fine, it looks like as if Manipur is going to the next Assembly Elections in the same usual pattern of absence of issues around which the various parties try to mobilise the support of the people. In this case, it would be the usual money, power and what not that matter whereas times now demand that the shared issues should be articulated and debated upon.


* Amar Yumnam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a Professor at Department of Economics, Manipur University, India and can be contacted at yumnam1(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)uk
This article was posted on September 12, 2016.


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