In the ten years that the Congress led SPF Government has been in power, the basic understanding of Parliamentary democracy has been turned on its head and nowhere is this more apparent than the manner in which stability has been transformed into some sort of a despotic regime. This has meant the systemic demolition of the idea of a strong and effective Opposition and reducing the definition of governance to a system of doling out contract and supply works and thereby nurturing a culture of contract raj. The contract raj is intensely protected turf, zealously guarded for it involves mega bucks and the birth of the three way nexus of the politician-official-contractor is complete. This nexus is clearly written in the gradual emergence of fly by night operators who don the garb of the contractors and suppliers one day and then reinvent themselves as social workers seeking the blessings of the people to ultimately proclaim their goal of serving the people by entering the electoral arena. The mutation process from fly by night contractors-suppliers to social workers and MLA aspirants comes a full circle and such a trend can survive and prosper only in a system which has been entrenched for some time which the ten long years of stability has seemingly provided. In the process, the days of the professional contractors and suppliers have been given a quiet burial and no one is spared, not even the politicians who may be sitting on the other side of the fence that divides the ruling and the Opposition. So powerful is the pull factor of this nexus that today the efficacy of an elected member is viewed and understood through the prism of the contract works that he or she can wangle for the supporters and workers. The result of such a system taking deep roots is there for all to see in the emerging pot holes on the recently black topped roads. Quality control be damned. The presence of a highly centric power point pre-supposes the existence of such a culture and all roads invariably lead to this power centre which is understood to be in the position to pull the strings at the right places. The birth of a despotic regime given birth by a system which is otherwise known as a representative form of Government is there for all to behold. The irony is palpable.
The never before mandate given to a single political party, Congress in this case, at the hustings has undoubtedly brought about political stability in that there has been no spell of political uncertainty or mid-term election or President’s Rule. In fact phrases like ‘keeping the Assembly under animated suspension or suspended animation’ have disappeared from the language of the newspapers published in Manipur in the last ten years. This is a welcome reprieve, no doubt, but a closer look at what has been unfolding at the ground reality tells a sinister tale-power being increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few who have managed to make their way into the politician-official-contractor nexus. A three dimensional equation which has come to define governance in the State. The booming black market where petrol can be had for Rs 150 to Rs 200 per litre when the petrol pumps run dry, a filled LPG cylinder for Rs 2000 or so when the gas agencies display the Stock Nil signboard, when people cannot afford to be afflicted by any malaise needing surgical operation because the IV fluids stock has run out, absurdly high price for a kilogramme of potato or tomato, are all indications that some groups are obviously benefiting from the present situation of acute scarcity. If it is the concentration of power and authority in the hands of this nexus, then the fuel that keeps the wheel of this nexus churning is undoubtedly money. And with election looming ahead, the role of money will become more and more pronounced in the coming days. The question of whether money will become the defining factor or not lies with no one but the people, the voters who will line up before the polling booth to choose their representatives. And here again another question arises and that is whether the people have it in them to make the election meaningful or not. The responsibility is no doubt huge, but as part of the largest democracy in the world, it is the people, the voters who will have to decide whether the time has come to break the nexus or let the status quo continue. The choice is in the hands of the people.