TODAY -

New Government, New Hope
- Part 1 -

Pradip Phanjoubam *

 Launching of Project Monitoring Web-Site and Digital Manipur at CM Secretariat on 14th April 2017
Launching of Project Monitoring Web-Site and Digital Manipur at CM Secretariat on 14th April 2017 :: Pix DIPR



From all appearances, Manipurís new BJP led coalition government is enjoying the best advantage of the incumbency fatigue of the people of the Congress government which was at the helm of the state for 15 long years. Just a little over a month of taking over power, the new Chief Minister, Nongthombam Biren Singh continues to throw in pleasant surprises one after the other, outlining what seems to be his promise for a fresh new era of administrative reforms.

The first of these was the new anticorruption cell he has set up located at the CM secretariat and under his direct supervision. As a follow up on this, his government announced that the public would be permitted to carry mobile phones into government offices, in particular the civil secretariat so that they would be able to record or film acts of corruption by government officials and forward them to the corruption cell for further action.

Not long after, he sprung yet another surprise - again a pleasant and innovative one - that his government has declared the 15th of every month as the People's Day, and on this day, the public would have open access to any government official, including ministers, to sort out administrative issues any of them may have. All these were generally met with public appreciation, although it must also be said with some bit of healthy scepticism as well. After all, this government is still very young and it would be too early to give any definitive report card just as yet.

It may be recalled the February election to the Manipur Legislative Assembly threw up a very fractured mandate. Neither the BJP or the Congress were able to come with a clear majority, and although the Congress was the single largest party with 28 seats, the BJP which won only 21 seats proved to be the more resourceful party and rounded up the support of all other non-Congress winners to emerge with a slim majority, but enough to be invited by the Governor Najma Heptullah to form the next government.

No prizes for guessing that although the BJP and four other smaller parties and an independent, managed to put together a post-election alliance, trouble was still expected. The 10th Schedule of the Constitution, more popularly known as the Anti-Defection Law, puts the ceiling on the size of the Manipur cabinet at 12, including the Chief Minister, and this had to be shared between the allies. However, right before everybodyís eyes, including the intense glare of the national media, in a show of political acumen and team spirit, the BJP leadership managed to keep the flock together by sacrificing a majority of the ministerial berths to accommodate its allies.

So far so good, and things seem to be looking up for the ruling party. Perhaps as a consequence of this new surge of hope and euphoria at the change of power, the state is already witness to some surprising developments,ending some of the most vexed entangles it was locked in while the Congress was in power. In particular, the nearly four months long blockade along the national highways crippling the state, spearheaded by the United Naga Council, UNC, ended within a few days of the new government assuming power, to the delight of many. It also undoubtedly raised eyebrows in other quarters.

The UNC blockade, it may be recalled, began November 1, in anticipation that the then Congress government would bow to the long standing demand of the people of Sadar Hills subdivision of the Senapati district and the Jiribam subdivision of Imphal East district to be accorded full-fledged district status. Nearly a month and a half into the UNC blockade, the then Congress government went ahead and created not just these two new districts, but five more by splitting seven existing districts, hardening the UNCís stand on the blockade.

The vehemence with which the creation of the seven administrative districts was opposed by the UNC suddenly seems to have sobered, even through there have been no major concessions made so far. The new districts are still very much a reality and there are no indications they would re retracted anytime soon. It does seem just the euphoria over the defeat of the Congress and the public optimism that the new government will be ushering in changes for the better have been all that was required to end the problem.

Similarly a resolution to the trouble in Churachandpur over the passage of three Bills to control immigrant inflow into the state, which the population here see as anti-tribal, now seems not altogether out of sight. Here too, all that was necessary seems the optimism of change promised by the new government, although according to reports, the JAC spearheading the agitation submitted a charter of demands to Chief Minister and the content does not indicate any immediate easy way out. The consolation is, at least the organisation spearheading the agitation has shown willingness to negotiate. We can only hope something works here too and the eight bodies of those killed in the agitation in the wake of the controversy, and kept in the district hospital mortuary for over a year now, get to have decent burials.

It remains to be seen if these governmental gestures of goodwill can sustain their popularity as they are now, especially after the antiincumbency weight that dislodged the previous government begins to wear off with the passage of time. For the moment, there can be no doubt, the new government and the blueprint for future administration it has been revealing in bits and pieces through the media, continue to delight the public.

However, let the government not be deceived into forgetting that there are still miles to go before it can even say it is on a stable path. There are too many onerous challenges before it, and they will sure begin showing up sooner than later. It has rightly identified official corruption as one of the major problems stunting growth of the state, but let it remember that government after government in the past had also discovered that fighting and ending corruption is easier said than done.

Almost without fail, all of these initiatives ended up co-opted by the corrupt system and corruption continued to remained as one of the stateís many abnormal normal. We hope the new government will also heed the dangers of its enthusiasm burning out prematurely, and the same level of energy is there to face seemingly insurmountable problems as and when they begin to show up. These are real dangers, for there are certain structural issues which will not be easy to resolve.

To be continued....


* Pradip Phanjoubam (Editor, Imphal Free Press) wrote this article for 'Manipur Today' that was published by DIPR Manpur in April 2017
This article was posted on May 19, 2017.


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