Striking a Balance: This Way, That way or Highway

Dinesh Sharma *

Voting for 16th Lok Sabha election 2014 for Inner Manipur Parliamentary in the heart of Imphal City :: 17  April 2014
Voting for 16th Lok Sabha election 2014 for Inner Manipur Parliamentary in April 2014 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

Much water has flown under the bridge since the last elections in Manipur. The past couple of years have witnessed some of the most unfortunate incidents in the history of the state, and the new government will have a massive task of healing the scars and mistakes of the past. There is a plateful of problems the new government will inherit as a legacy. Besides the perennial problems of corruption, lack of development, and security issues, the unsolicited bonuses this time will be ethnic polarity, territorial disputes, and a more aware public.

For all reasons, it will not be a far-fetched statement to call 2017 elections the most important one in the history of modern Manipur.

o First, the communal undercurrent has surfaced like never before in Manipur's history. Lines have been drawn along ethnic roots with open endorsement of separation of one from another.
o Second, with the ILP fiasco, the hills and valley population has never experienced such huge divide. Some call for division of administrative set up, while others are calling for total separation.
o Third, while some call it a political masterstroke, setting up of seven new districts have drawn new lines on the territorial legacy of different communities. Though the districts are meant for administrative convenience, the motives of this move are not as simple as they look.
o Fourth, the most silent and much needed reformation is taking roots in the form of newer parties and ideas like PRJA. While there are many who laugh at the idea of a people's resurgence, and some even despise, it is nonetheless the resurgence of rational politics taking shape.
o Lastly, the public is simply tired. The blockades, counter blockades, schools shutdowns, street protests, and violence; there is only so much that the public can take. Let there be a decision. All bets are out in the open and the facade is off - Can we have a decision on our future now?

This Way or That way

Let us consider the options we have - two major national parties (Congress and BJP) vying for the state. While Congress has been ruling the state for most of post-Independent years, BJP is riding high on the national wave and popularity of the Modi Government in the Center. While the incumbent Congress Government claims there is 'No Problem' in the state and they are doing a wonderfully great job, BJP claims to have magic potion for every problem - Narendra Modi.

As with any anti-incumbency wave, the current government stands accused of several misconducts. After 15 years, they still promise the same thing, which only proves that they have not accomplished their promises even after 15 years.

o Corruption and widespread Nepotism: Ever heard of "Mr Ten Percent" charges and Wikileaks? Google search these keywords to learn more. And with family members entering into politics, dynastic politics seems to be taking deep roots with the critics crying louder than ever.
o Divisive policies: The Mao Gate incident, the Ukhrul Ambush incident, the ILP fiasco, Ceasefire and territorial issues, etc, etc. People still kill and die for territorial and ethnic claims within the same state. We don't discuss issues anymore, we discuss ethnic roots and rights.
o Opportunist: Ok, there is territorial dispute in creating one district? What should we do? Answer is simple, create seven districts so that all 'disputes' become neutralized. Disintegrate communal unity, become messiah for one group, and claim to be attacked by another. More votes for you in the process.
o Don't let the public talk about Development: Ever wondered why Manipur is in boil every 6 months for some issue or the other? Perhaps, without creating such issues, people might soon start asking questions about development and hold the government accountable? Just thinking aloud.

And now let's weigh the other option we have. A popular development-centric government in the center which only took interest in the state right before the elections. Their mantra being "Vote for us, and leave all your worries."

o One Size fits all : All issues in the country are not just development related. There are emotional and social issues that needs an empathetic solution, and not just economic reforms. Merely terming the state to be India's 'Gateway to South-East Asia' and organizing business summits on 'Act East' policies does not solve the problems.
o Taming NSCN does not mean Peace: With all their earnestness to resolve the vexed Naga political issue, the center right now seems to think that pleasing the Nagas will resolve all problems in the region. One cannot be more ignorant than this, and we must realize that the territorial claims of the NSCN is in direct conflict with most states in the neighborhood - Assam, Arunachal, Manipur, and even Myanmar. The issue of territory needs to be handled with more sensitivity and a neutral stand rather than aligning with one faction of the society.
o Lacking a definite stance: Manipur needs a sense of security and only a definite stand on its territorial right will provide that. If you are signing a peace accord with NSCN and claim to be resolving their territorial disputes, it only means you are providing us a false sense of security. We cannot have the 'peace framework' under wraps. People want wider participation in any such public issue. Simply stating, you cannot eat the cake and have it too.

The Right Way or the Highway

While it is understandable that politics is a number game and the issue is more about how many represents can you line up, it is ultimately the voter who decides whom to give the privilege. A thousand rupee note and a hearty meal can influence your decision, but the question is "Will you sell your rights for 5 years for thousand rupee and a hearty meal?" If the answer is YES, then you are part of the problem. If you think otherwise, don't look this way or that way - just follow the moral HIGH way.

* Dinesh Sharma wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at dineshcold(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on January 18, 2017.

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