Of political instability, COVID and war on drugs

    21-Jul-2020
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Kakai Singsit & James Doungel
Manipur is a land of paradoxes where every elected representatives want to be a minister and all the ministers eyeing for the top slot and thereby making a mockery of democracy- on whose bedrock they were catapulted to the pedestal by we, the naive voters, with the expectation that they will deliver their promises.
But there can be only one CM on a given term and twelve Council of Ministers including the CM and the speaker, as was reinforced by the ironclad anti-defection law of 2003 or otherwise known as the 91st Amendment Act of 2003. It was thought that the 91st amendment act will bring forth political stability and deterred elected representatives from changing party loyalties but it did not.
N Biren Singh’s BJP government inherited a fractured mandate and its zeal to form the government had come with a heavy price as it had to accommodate the coalition partners the major chunks of the ministerial berths available which became costly at the later part. For two years it was gliding smoothly rolling out largesse and packages ably strengthened by its people-centric policies much to the admiration and enthusiasm of the people to such an extent that he became the most popular Chief Minister Manipur that had ever seen. But all was not well within.
The first political roller-coaster came to light during the early part of 2019 when there was clamour for change of guard from various dissenting MLAs but the schism was ironed-out after the intervention of the central leadership of the BJP and placated the dissenting MLAs. The hatchet was buried but not forever as it has resurfaced yet, again and again. Again, Manipur government was rocked by yet another dissension when all the BJP MLAs who had missed the ministerial bus submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister in the later part 2019 demanding for total reshuffling of all the present cabinet ministers with new faces. Improbable as it seems the matter was put to rest after the intervention of the central leadership or euphemistically known as the party high-command.
It was during those halcyon days that the much acclaimed “war on drugs” was launched which in the later days came to be his Achilles heels and haunts him till today. It paid off dividends with drugs and psychedelic substances worth thousands of crore of rupees caught and thousands of poppy fields were devastated. The climax came when one ADC, chairman’s quarter was busted by the Narcotics department with drugs and cash worth Rs 28 crore.
The involvement of a high-profile political personality in such a shady business sent shockwaves to the people’s psyche because this is not the first that a high-profile personality was indicted on drug business. His incarceration, later fleeing, his surrender and yet again the granting of bail on medical ground and the ensuing high-drama in the court, the affidavit marked by allegations of prodding for leniency from the highest personalities in the helm of affairs has never fail to hog both national and state media banner pages. Then comes 2020 with all the dizzying concoction of last year’s hangover episodes but concomitant with a glimmer of hope that political instability had been put to the back-burner for the sake of peace and development only to be cut short by the arrival of Corona Virus pandemic which we  are grappling with right now.
The first confirmation of a positive case sent panic to all the citizens of Manipur thus forcing the government of Manipur to imposed lock-down from the fag-end of March, 2020 till today though enforced in the attenuated form, now. All attention was directed towards the containment of this pandemic which is seen to be exponentially increasing day by day. Government machineries and the people were preoccupied with only COVID and expatriation of our citizens elsewhere.
Then came the deflection- the Rajya Sabha election of 2020 which saw the revival the old-ghost, that we were under the fantasy that it was already exorcised, coming back to haunt the government.
The build-up to the election was marked by the most shameless episodes of MLAs, Ministers jumping from one ship to the other only to return as the prodigal son with excuses and pretexts so ludicrous that we all hung our head in revulsion. The Corona Virus scare and its fight containment was shrugged-off for the ultimate price. In fact, it was forgotten. The ruling party walked away with the golden spoon much to the chagrin of the opposition party who until the day of the reckoning was under the impression that they will sail through.
The revelry was short-lived as yet another bombshell in the form of an affidavit was dropped to the Manipur High Court’s room indicting high-profile personalities of the state, including the CM, DGP and a Vice president of the BJP, Manipur state unit. The already festering situation was superimposed by yet another internal political bickering which is yet to crystallize. Fickle as we are, our attention-span is now being directed to this very contentious issue of ‘war on drugs’ and the ensuing recriminations.
This topic is now on everybody’s lips- from drunk to sober, devil’s advocates to political savants, plebeian to patrician, and etc. The all-pervasive discussions and debates has becomes the favourite time-pass for ‘Hotel Philosophers’ who are under the delusion that their cup of tea is deficient of taste if not blended with the ‘super-cop vs the state’ topic with one supporting the other only to be negated by the other.
The devil deserves his due so the super-cop deserves our fullsome accolades for her commitment in the eradication of drugs and giving a free-drug Manipur but the question of ethics and protocol in the conduct of his or her official duty with due regards to the judiciary, the executives and the legislatures was thrown to the wind.
This is simply untenable. If the matter was in the court why not let the court take up the matter without any interference from any quarter.
Branding the judiciary as entirely corrupt and launching invectives against it undermines its sanctity as the custodian of people’s rights. If not satisfied with the court’s decision why not take recourse to the appellate forum that is available for any aggrieve party?
The executive and the police department was not spared either in the affidavit. When the matter was subjudice it is a wonder how the matter reached national and state medias. To be a firebrand or loose-cannon is normally taken as the job of the pressure groups or civil societies but here a government officer that too from a uniform service is doing the reverse role. If all the democratic institutions are not respected in the conduct of their business then surely we are heading towards mobocracy, which is undesirable.
Lashing out at the titular king was very poor in taste for the CSOs had done their part.
After all, the present government led by N Biren Singh had done stellar job during its short tumultuous tenure of three-years.
The significant improvement of Law and Order, the new entente it had brought with the hill people, the vanishing culture of bandh and blockades, people-centric governance etc should be collectively reminisced. Though plagued by oft-repeated internal dissensions and bickering this government had done commendable jobs.
We, the people had to go through a hell lot of tribulations thanks to the political instability manufactured in the cauldron of our elected representatives. Now that Manipur is grappling with COVID-19 it will be wise if our collective attention is directed towards it. A wise man once defined democracy as this- “Buy the people, off the people and force the people.” See the irony.