TODAY -

Lok Sabha election 2024 : A new dawn in the politics of Manipur ?

Ritz Potshangbam *



I am writing this article to make an appeal to the people of Manipur regarding the upcoming Lok Sabha election. As we all are aware, the Lok Sabha election is set to take place in phases from 19th April to 1st June.

It is widely known that elections are crucial for the Indian democracy, as the elected Govt. will lead the country for the next 5 years. As a responsible citizen of India, we must cast our vote and help establish a Govt. that will drive our Nation forward in every sector.

We, the people of Manipur, belong to different communities, religions, and ethnicities. For almost a year, we have been living in the dark due to the ongoing conflicts, which have impacted our lives. However, now is the time for the general election of Lok Sabha.

We should see this election as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of people in a democracy. The lessons we have learned from the ongoing conflict have shown us the importance of having a strong leader who can run the State and represent us at the National level to address our issues.

Manipur has two Constituencies, namely Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur. Being a small State having a variety of regional interests, we must elect someone who can think beyond party politics and represent Manipur's interests with a clear mind. Observing the trend for the last two decades, the Lok Sabha elections in Manipur have shown that the ruling party in the State or its alliance has always won.

This suggests that people vote based on the party and not on individual candidates. However, the situation on the ground seems to have changed a little bit this time, and it may not be easy for the ruling party to win due to the conflicts the State has been experiencing.

In the past, money played a big role in influencing the voters heavily but this time the question is whether people will prioritize personal gain over the State's interests. Or will there be a shift of course in the electoral politics of Manipur which will lead to the election based on the real issues and interests of the State ?

I am seeing this election from a very opportunistic point of view because we need to exploit such dark times for a brighter tomorrow by establishing a new political environment and aspiration for the State. So, let’s discuss the main things that we need to be aware of to choose the right candidate for us to represent at the National level.

1. Understanding who is a Boss and who is a leader

As citizens in a democracy, we hold the power, not those who are in positions of authority. We must influence our representatives, not the other way around. We should not be attracted to power, but rather attract it. When electing our representatives, we need to understand who is a boss and who is a leader.

Sometimes, we confuse the concept of being a boss and being a leader as it is differentiated by a thin line. So, let’s try to understand the difference between a boss and a leader, a boss sees you as a subject or resource to exploit for their benefit, believing in hierarchy they never see the common people as their equals, and provide only the bare minimum for your needs.

A leader, on the other hand, sees you as a citizen who needs to be served and uplifted and will work for you sacrificing their desires and needs. A boss will make you sacrifice for them while a leader will sacrifice for you. It can be difficult to distinguish between a boss and a leader, as many bosses pretend to be leaders.

However, analyzing their actions, not just their words, is the key to understanding who is who. Leaders are the common people who intend to serve the public interest the most. The bigger the leader, the more they serve the people, so the degree to which a leader is great is proportional to their capacity to serve the interests of the people.

Bosses will try to intimidate you by using their power and authority, often in the form of money or muscle and make you feel inferior, but leaders strive to encourage and uplift you, making you aware of your importance and role in society while treating you as an equal.

So, we must look carefully and analyse all the candidates of this coming election and choose “THE LEADER” who has the responsibility and accountability of their action and prioritizes public interest above personal interest not “THE BOSS”. We have been electing bosses disguised as leaders to represent us for too long, but now it is the time to stand up and elect good leaders, not bosses, in this election. Let’s pave a new way for electoral politics in the State of Manipur.

2. Perceiving the real issue precedes the “Issue-based Election”

I have heard many scholars and political pundits discuss about the importance of issue-based elections and I too agree that elections should be based on the issues that the State is facing. However, the real question that come to my mind is whether the common citizens of the State truly understand the real issues or are confused by the fabricated issues set up by certain political parties to benefit themselves in the elections by distracting people's attention from the real issues. I believe that people might not be aware of the real issues at hand.

When I analyze our political and social history since Manipur became a part of the Union of India, I have realized that Manipur has been exposed to many issues over time. Unfortunately, most of these issues have not been addressed, and they have only been compounding over the years. Currently, these issues have become so big and complex that even the territorial integrity of the State has been challenged, and there is a growing sense of hatred among communities.

This raises a question: if people understand the real issues, why do they continue to vote for the same representatives who are part of the Government that runs the State or represents it at the Union Government which has continuously failed to solve the issues ? Are the citizens of the State stupid or uneducated ?

I believe that the people are neither stupid nor uneducated, but rather they lack knowledge or awareness on certain topics and issues, making them ignorant. They have been distracted by the fabricated issues created by political parties over the years.

Therefore, I see this as a significant drawback in our electoral politics, and this drawback is caused due to the lack of understanding of the real issues. If someone doesn't understand what the real issue is, how can we have an issue-based election ?

Let's discuss how we can identify and understand the real issues faced by our State. To do so, firstly we need to address our personal issues as a voter. Our biggest personal issue is our voting behaviour, which is often based on personal gain. If we can't think beyond our personal interests, we won't be able to comprehend the real issues faced by our State and eventually, we will be easily swayed by the politicians with its propagated issues.

Some examples of personal issues in voting behaviour include voting for someone because they promise to help our son or daughter get a Government job, or because they promise to help us get a transfer to a desired location while on the job. We may also vote for someone because they helped us with our work using their power or because they have distributed the most money during the election. This list goes on and on.

What I am trying to say is that unless we can rid ourselves of this personal issue and behaviour of voting based on personal interests, we will not be able to see the real issues to have elections based on real issues faced by our State.

When we overcome our personal biases as voters and approach the election with a neutral perspective, the political goons cannot sway us with their own propagated issue and eventually we will be able to focus on the interests of the State and can identify the real issues that need to be addressed.

Only when we shift our focus from personal interest to State interest and understand the actual issues or problems, we can hope to have an election that is based on the real issues of the State, which we call an "Issue-based election".

Despite the ongoing conflict and situation in Manipur, I feel happy as it helps even the most politically disengaged people of the State realize, see and understand the issues or problems of the State. We should take advantage of this situation to change the course of electoral politics in Manipur. Therefore, I am appealing to the youth of Manipur to be the first ones in their families to vote for a leader who they believe will solve the problems faced by the State and serve the State's interests, not just their personal or family interests.

3. Choose practicality over emotions

One of the major challenges we face during elections is that our emotions tend to cloud our judgement. Choosing a candidate is like playing a game where we have to pick only one winner from many contestants. While we may have two or more favourites, we can only choose one. This can be confusing, especially when our emotions are involved. As humans, it is natural to feel emotionally connected to a candidate for various reasons, but this does not necessarily make them the best person for the job.

Think of yourself as a judge in a contest where your son is one of the contestants. Naturally, your emotions will be inclined towards your son, but your mind knows that the other contestant deserves to win. In this situation, who should you choose ?

The answer is simple: when community and social interests are at stake, we must choose practicality over our emotions. We need to make our decisions based on logic and reason, putting our emotions aside. The emotional connection we have with people like our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, etc., is based on interpersonal relationships, which often involve a lot of compromises.

However, the relationship we have with the candidates who will eventually represent us goes beyond interpersonal relationships, so we should not compromise when choosing them. We need to be practical in selecting the person who can best serve our State's interests.

In other words, please vote for candidates based on their credibility, competence, and capability to serve the people and the interests of the State. Do not vote for them based on your emotional connection with a particular candidate.

Conclusion:

As we approach the upcoming election, it's apparent that there's not much excitement in the air. Our State has been embroiled in ongoing conflicts between communities, turning it into a war zone for almost a year. This has led many common people to lose faith in our elected representatives, whom we once believed would be our leaders.

However, even if we've lost faith in our leaders, we must not lose faith in the democratic values that our country upholds. We should still participate in the upcoming election and exercise our right to vote. We must use this opportunity to elect a true leader for our State's interest, not someone who disguises themselves as a leader but acts like a boss.

The nature of electoral politics in a State or region is determined by the voting behavior of the common masses. Therefore, we hold the power to create the political power structure of our democratic system, either directly or indirectly.

In the past, we've made mistakes, but we should use them as learning experiences to move forward. This time, we have enough experience to not compromise this opportunity for personal interests or gains. Instead, we must come together as comrades to change the political culture and electoral politics of Manipur through our votes.

Let us recall the words of Thomas Fuller, "It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn". We are already in the darkest hour, so it's time to create a new dawn in Manipur's politics, filled with hopes and aspirations of peace and harmony.


* Ritz Potshangbam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer hails from Khagempalli Panthak, Imphal West
and can be reached at potshangbamritz(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 09 April 2024

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