This has again been a fortnight of eventful developments of profound bearings on Manipur, some very grave and others which can only be described as harbingers of hope for the future with promise to show the way out of Manipur’s current despairing atmosphere of economic stagnancy, intellectual ennui and moral decadence. Two sets of people will be entering the pages of Manipur’s history book, one set for betrayal and treason of the very idea of honour, pride, loyalty, all for the sole purpose of serving narrow selfish ambitions, and the second set for doing the state and the country proud with their raw talents and single-minded dedications to their chosen callings. On the one hand Manipur’s characterless politics has darkened and sunk deeper into infamy, forebodings ill for the entire state. This will be so at least till such a time the people take the courage to introspect and realise that meaningful participation in democratic politics is predicated on their ability to exercise their rational and moral judgment in choosing their own future. They must realise that in this equation, rationality and morality are primary and politicians secondary. That is to say, the people must give their votes only to politicians with principles and known commitment to these principles.
On the other hand, quite to contrary of this picture, and in equal if not greater measures, Manipur’s athletes have yet again brought an abundance of smiles and joys for all. There were heartbreaks too but these disappointments have only resulted in a surge of a sense of unity, eagerness not only to console, but also share the pains of the worst moments. These failures after hard honest battles have only multiplied and cemented the solidarity amongst peoples, giving them a respite from the nausea induced by the obnoxious political drama playing out on the state’s other stage. Our sportspersons have always brought out the best in our society and have been our perennial fountain of goodwill and optimism. This is true not just of Manipur but the entire Northeast region and the country as well. As some in a lighter vein pointed with regards to the Northeast, sporting events have made us forget our bitter differences even if momentarily and made us rejoice or mourn together. Assam and Mizoram are at loggerheads currently, but everybody’s love for woman boxer Lovlina Borgohain from Assam and the young and talented woman hockey player Lalremsiami from Mizoram had no dispute or boundary barriers. There were seven from the Northeast who represented India, and it must be added with pride that five of them were from Manipur. The seven together brought one silver and two bronze medals, and we are immensely proud and grateful to them for bringing back and adding some colours to our lives of increasingly grey and repetitive routines of everyday professions, and the dreary constant drone of humdrum politics in the backdrop.
Much is left to be said of how sports must be handled, but that will be for another article. For now, the ugly news first. Manipur’s listless politics of sycophancy to central leaders continues its downward spiral and today even outright betrayal has been not only been institutionalised, but also normalised in the minds of the larger public making these ugly and destructive attributes of state politics, acceptable to them. Political defection has come to be treated as an art in the game of politics and no longer is a matter of outrage. It is true, technically, a defection is about an elected legislator joining another party without first resigning his seat won on a different party’s ticket. However, even a legally correct switching of political loyalty can amount to a greater act of betrayal. Lest it is misunderstood, let a caveat at the very beginning put things in perspective. This is not at all about sympathising with any political party, but about being disgusted with an act which can only be defined as treachery or villainy. Though political betrayals have always been benumbingly frequent in Manipur, indicating the rootlessness of its brand of politics, nothing can beat the manner in which an erstwhile president of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, MPCC, and veteran politician’s departed from his party not long after he was nominated to the post. If he was unhappy with the party, why did he accept the party’s captaincy in the first place? Till not so long ago, he was among those spitting bile at the ruling party, and then without so much of a warning that he had become disillusioned with his erstwhile party, all of a suddenly disappeared, tendered resignation not long after and within a few days declared his joining ranks with the rival and ruling BJP he had been lambasting. While political defections have no doubt become common place in Manipur, this one will go down in history as the most vile and despicable, comparable to how Brutus’ stabbed his mentor and friend Caesar. This is about the captain of a ship suddenly and for no explained reason, abandoning his ship. No doubt about it, we would have been as disgusted if the betrayal had been the other way around and the captain of the BJP ship had betrayed his crew and passengers to join the Congress.
It is also apparent the ex-MPCC president walked over into the ruling party’s camp and was admitted into it in a big way for an undisclosed offer he would have made. Though there are no formal confirmations, informal sources said his trump card was a promise to have nine more Congress strongmen join the BJP ranks before the next Assembly elections due in less than seven months and for this he bargained to be the next chief ministerial candidate. But as the saying goes, there can be “many a slip between cup and the lips”. For instance, the MLAs he promised to bring over may betray him in the manner he betrayed his old party. Such a scenario would most certainly doom his political career irrevocably. As for his reputation as a politician, there is not much left to be salvaged. To be fair, there could have been other considerations for his decision to be a turncoat, and this may have to do with the emergence of a formidable challenger to him in his constituency, Bishenpur, over which he has held sway for decades. Another earlier defector from the Congress, former losing Congress MP candidate and former chief secretary of the state, could have emerged as capable of pipping him at the hustings if the latter was allowed to contest on the ruling BJP ticket in a constituency considered a fertile ground for the Hindutva ideology to take roots. Even though he has seemingly usurped such a move, it is still not going to be easy for him in his constituency if his rival now decides to contest on another party’s ticket – who knows it could be the Congress ticket, switching political loyalty back and forth being so commonplace in Manipur politics now. All this is shameful, and indeed, even in the Northeast, this kind of rudderless politics is seen only in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Look at our immediate neighbours, Nagaland and Mizoram for evidence. In these states, the practice of democracy is becoming far healthier in many ways, particularly because they have more or less done away with the culture of political defection, and instead are turning to ideology based politics.
Once upon a time when wars were the norm, as in sports, only the best and most capable generals emerged as leaders. Democracy changed the battlefields as well as the battles. Indeed, democracy can also be seen as an effective conflict resolution mechanism between democratic nations, and as the UNDP Human Development Report 2003 noted, few if any democratic nations, now go to war with each other. Democracy also therefore took the leadership premium away from military prowess and placed it instead on statesmanship. This being so, in an ideal democracy, it should have been the best statesmen who emerged as leaders always. But things go wrong along the way for many reasons, including obviously in Manipur, leaving most of us here convinced politics is deplorable and devoid of ethics. The notion of statesmen as leaders is also fading fast and we know only too well what it takes for a legislator to become elected, and who ends up elected. Nothing can be more tragic, and course correction can only come about if the people themselves decide to reject all inadequately equipped with the statesmanship premium democracy demands.
Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics and author
2 thoughts on “Gloom of Manipur Politics Where Treachery Has Been Normalised, Balanced by Sunshine Brought by Athletes”
That is the sad but true commentary on the political scenario of Manipur. Unfortunately the voters will be least bothered about political morality. Shameful but helpless…pleasure to read.
Pradip has exposed the rotten smell in Manipur politics. it’s sad indeed. Who knows the present boss of BJP, Biren, may switch over to congress next time.
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