TODAY -

Would any journalist dare to stand up and call a spade, a spade?
- Part 1 -

NS Hemam06/08/2019 *



The unfolding political drama in the state with deep political conspiracy plots and subplots in every turn is like watching a suspense movie thriller. The blatant misuse of power at his/her disposal be it the ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats or the press to garner more political mileage has accentuated the uncertainty and instability in the state.

Over the last two months enough has been said about the characters and motives of the so called "rebel" MLAs through our hyperactive and judgemental press, primarily based on selective leaks of confidential information. The MLAs with alternate political views are greeted with a stream of choicest expletives like 'the dissidents" or "the rebels" or "the power-mongers" or "selfish" or "the betrayer," just to name a few. However, the calculative amnesia by the press on the other side of the story gives the impression of a 'fixed match;' a trial by media without hearing from both sides.

Shouldn't the people of Manipur deserve to hear their (MLA's) side of the story as well? Why our "selfless" press are so reluctant on telling the other side of the story?

The inexplicable silence of state media on innumerable occasions has raised many eyebrows and put a serious question mark on the ethics and neutrality of the state press. The MLAs are accused of, especially from the press and the so called 'political' commentators, of spending time in 5 star hotels in Delhi when the state is in serious crisis of draught. Very true and very well said; but, unfortunately, nobody (media) has ever asked the reasons for staying back in Delhi in spite of having serious negative publicity back home.

Why the MLAs would take the risk they took, despite knowing the huge public backlash? It is high time that an honest and neutral journalist stood-up and asks some serious questions to unearth the truth from both ends.

It may be worth exploring, just for the sake of curiosity, with a fresh perspective and look beyond the obvious to get the real story behind the unfolding political drama in Manipur. A few questions therefore could be raised so that the inquisitive press may follow it up to take us to its logical end.

1. What are the main disagreements between the Chief Minister and the dissenting MLAs that led to the present impasse?

General public know very little about the disagreements between the MLAs and the CM. It was the absence of half the state Cabinet in the Ukhrul Cabinet meeting and subsequent announcement by the CM to reshuffle the state cabinet that brought the inner conflict into public domain.

Now, it could be well argued that BJP being a disciplined, ideology driven party, the MLAs kept their grievances within the party and raised their concerns internally to higher party authorities and hence no one knew about it. It was, unfortunately, the CM's outburst against his own ministers and MLAs that broke the party tradition of keeping the party matters within the party. Then, why should the MLAs be blamed for indiscipline in the party? It was, perhaps, the CM who first washed the dirty linen in public.

It is unfortunate that none of the media groups has picked-up on this line and made an attempt to unearth the truth. We all are still clueless about the disagreements so as the press.

2. How long these MLAs have been demanding for a change in the approach and the style of functioning of the government?

If rumours are to be believed, it has been going on for more than 15-16 months many MLAs had privately raised/written or brought to the attention of the CM at appropriate forums the mismanagements and systemic collapse of state administration on several occasions. Even the financial mismanagement and infamous overdraft issue was warned six months before, but the government chose to ignore.

Any major (state/central) development project in a constituency is usurped by the powers that be the hapless BJP MLAs have become victims of their own government. This would ultimately lead to risking their own (BJP MLAs) standing in the party as well as in the constituency. What if the MLAs were to lose control of their own constituencies because of an unresponsive government of their own? It's a simple logic none would wish to lose an election, not to speak of a sitting MLA of ruling party.

Are there alternate explanations? Possible; those who are professionals need to revisit all leads and question the unquestionables!

3. What actions have the Government and the Chief Minister taken-up to mitigate grievances of BJP MLAs?

None, so far! Instead of addressing the core issues, more intimidatory tactics seemed to have been employed to persuade the MLAs. The reshuffle threat, stripping of portfolios, allegation of fund misuse, vigilance cases against the "rebel" MLAs, etc. are examples too prominent to call co-incidence.

It's good to have a clean government, but one mustn't cherry-pick the target and investigates only those who have different political opinions. Besides, the issue of empowering local administration through local MLAs was ignored making the MLAs subservient to the CM and ministers.

Why not make an independent enquiry (journalistic) to clear up the air?

4. What are the charges/investigations taken-up by the CM/Government against some of the prominent "rebel" MLAs/Ministers since the problem flared-up?

It may be worth exploring some of the face-offs between the CM and his council of ministers, MLAs, and MP since the Ukhrul Cabinet meeting. It may have been all co-incidental, but the signs are too strong to ignore as 'co-incidental'.

o Threat of ministry reshuffle (Ukhrul cabinet meeting aftermath)
o Stripping of portfolios from Dy. CM and Works Minister
o Investigation against RS MP for misuse of MP LADF (Imphal Times)
o Selective leaks to tarnish the image of Speaker (the speaker threatened 8 congress MLAs with disqualification if they supported CM: Naharolgi Thoudang)
o Vigilance enquiries on developmental works taken up in "rebel" BJP MLAs' constituencies (ongoing, need thorough independent enquiry)
o Building roadblocks in development works of "rebel" BJP MLAs (need thorough independent enquiry)
o Usurping of developmental works in "rebel" BJP MLAs constituencies to dis-empower the MLAs (need thorough independent enquiry)
o Threat to take punitive action against those BJP MLAs who had poor vote share in LS election and they are being accused of sabotaging the LS election (incidentally all are in the opposite camp) (need thorough independent enquiry)
o Promotion and tacit support to rival parties(say, Congress) of the "rebel" BJP MLAs' constituencies (need thorough independent enquiry)
o Complete division within BJP party organization, ensuring that those "rebel" MLAs have no space in the party (need thorough independent enquiry)

Some of these need proper verification, but for some it had already happened. Needless to say, journalists with courage and honesty are the need of the hour to unearth the truth. If indeed these allegations of 'vendetta politics' were true, then perhaps the demand of "rebel" BJP MLAs could well be considered as a 'justified demand.'


To be continued.....


* NS Hemam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at hemamns(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 06 August, 2019.



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