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In the Manipur election result was heard the repressed silent scream of population

Voice of the Silent Majority Opposed to Anarchy is What Was Heard in the Manipur Election Result

To say that the results of Parliamentary elections 2024 threw up major surprises would be an understatement. This is true both what happened at the national level where the battle was for 543 seats, as well as in the tiny arena of Manipur where the contest was for two seats, namely Manipur Outer and Manipur Inner. Much has already been written about the results at national level and how the skyward bound hubris of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party Bhartiya Janata Party, BJP, which leads National Democratic Alliance NDA, were flogged and singed by the ballots of the Indian voters.

All along, the BJP rallying behind the charisma of the Prime Minister had vaunted loud that this time around it was going to dwarf the opposition into complete insignificance by winning over 400 seats, and this hype loudly and incessantly resonated in the echo chambers of a greater section of a surprisingly servile national media till the very day the results became known. Many, including these media houses also partnered in exit polls by professional pollsters and their findings were made known a day after the last of the seven phases of polling had been completed on June 1. In all of these too, they proclaimed with fanfare how the ruling dispensation was set to stream roll the opposition virtually to nonexistence, with the BJP alone set to bag over 300 seats comfortably, therefore well over the majority mark of 272 on its own even without its allies.

The results proved dismal for the 39-member NDA. The BJP by itself only managed to bag 240 seats and with seats won by 14 other member parties in the alliance, the NDA could total only 293. Of the 14 parties, only two had substantial seats in their bags – Chandrababu Naidu’s Telegu Desam with 16 seats and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) with 12 seats. Both were formerly part of the opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, INDIA, headed by the Indian National Congress, INC, and at one point it was feared that they made decide to leave the NDA and return to INDIA bloc. That has not happened, but there is no gainsaying it cannot happen anytime later. The two parties therefore have become very important king-makers, and it remains to be seen what pound of flesh they would each extract from the NDA for their continued loyalty.

Although still the single largest party, for the BJP and Prime Minister Modi, this is no doubt a resounding moral defeat. It must also be added here that the moral defeat is also for India’s servile media by and large. At no time in India’s history has the journalism profession in the country been disgraced the way this cabal has, and it is no surprise that in the World Press Freedom Index prepared each year by the respected media watch organisation, Reporters Sans Frontiers, RSF, Indian journalism has been relegated to 159 amongst 179 countries in 2023, just two ranks better than its position in the previous year when Indian journalism was put at 161.

The corollary is equally true. The result is also without a dispute, a resounding moral victory for the INDIA bloc. They virtually had no space in the mainstream Indian media while they were all swooning with adoration of the ruling party for reasons anybody can guess, therefore had to fight the election virtually out of public sight for much of the time. Over and above this, they were hounded all along by the different supposedly democratic organs of the Indian state, the autonomy of all of which had come to wear away gradually and systematically to ultimately become the surrogates of the ruling dispensation. Opposition leaders were being harangued by the tax department, CBI, Enforcement Directorate and many more. Two opposition chief ministers even faced imprisonment on doubtful charges. To top it all, just a few months before the election, the bank accounts of the main opposition party, INC, ended up frozen, leaving them with no campaign money. It is against all these odds that the 28 parties in this alliance together managed to win 234, with INC accounting for 99 seats.

If this was what was on the larger national canvas, what happened on the local Manipur arena too is worthy of notice. Here, the issue is the complete breakdown of law and order ever since the outbreak of the May 3, 2023 ethnic clashes between Meiteis and Kuki-Zo communities. For reasons which can only be described as confounding, the state and central forces have done little to clamp down comprehensively on both side of the fence using the might of the state and thereby ensure the law is back where is ought always to be – in the hands of the state. This not having been done, today the law virtually is in the hands of anybody wielding a lethal weapon, reducing Manipur to what can now be referred to as the Wild East.

As in any conflict situation, the longer it is prolonged, the more complex it is also expected to get. Other than the usual trend of people learning to adjust to an abnormal situation which is beyond their control, and ending up normalising the abnormal, conflict is also known to throw up parties which have a vested interest in the continuance of the conflict, in numerous variations of what Noam Chomsky prophesised as the military industrial complex. On an incremental basis, even as the voices of the hawks and war mongers rose to a crescendo, reciprocally, the saner voices of the doves in the society had become suppressed.

The fear was that the sane voices would be lost forever, and the vigour and inner strength that Manipur was known for, so very evident in its different fields of activities, and prominently in its arts and sports, would also become drowned and lost. But thankfully, the just concluded elections have proven all is not lost yet, and that Manipur still has plenty of fight left in it. What Manipur and the world witnessed with awe is the manner ballot became the voice of the silent majority of saner voices who were watched in silence but with alarm and disgust the manner their homeland was allowed to sink into complete anarchy. The victory of the opposition Congress in both of Manipur’s two Parliamentary seats, in this sense is their collective fist of defiance shown to the ruling dispensation and their private militias. Few believed this outcome was possible, but the knowledge that the inner grit of the ordinary Manipuri has not be extinguished yet, is the promise of hope for the state’s future.

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