Party-hoppers’ gift: By-poll amid COVID crisis

For long, party-hopping and political horse trading has been one ubiquitous character of electoral politics in Manipur. This disgusting culture is so entrenched in the electoral politics of the State that the Anti-Defection Law can do very little to check it. Even though all the 60 MLAs elected to the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly in 2017 are very much alive and kicking, as many as 13 Assembly seats are headed for by-election, thanks to all those ex-MLAs who have either resigned or have been disqualified for party-hopping or undue craving for power. Political ideology, principle and personal integrity mean nothing to these people. The only thing that matters to these people is power. That is why, they are always in search of greener pastures or in hot pursuit of power. This abominable character is common to majority of politicians cutting across party lines.  Of course, they are elected by people and they represent the people of the State but they are so indifferent to the plight of the masses that they are always busy lobbying with Central leaders for more power or ministry reshuffle or hopping from one party to another. Full credit goes to the ex-MLAs who have resigned or have been disqualified for bringing by-election to the doors of 13 Assembly segments amidst the scourge of COVID-19. With the Election Commission already in preparatory mode for the by-election, lakhs of people would now be exposed to the highly contagious COVID-19 because the ex-MLAs were too selfish and uncannily thirsty for power. Several civil society organisations have already pointed out the grave danger posed by holding by-election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but the by-election is unlikely to be put on hold until the pandemic is effectively contained because there is a constitutional obligation to fill up the vacant Assembly seats. If the elected representatives are so irresponsible, the voters cannot be called responsible or sagacious by any yardstick.    
The irony of any electoral process seen in Manipur is the conspicuous absence of politics. The political process in general and election in particular in Manipur society is marked by certain discernible trends. Such trends call for serious engagement on the part of thinking public and leaders who dare to dream for a change in our society. While our society seems to be lacking that brand of species, state is drifting towards an abyss of darkness and uncertainty. One aspect of this trend is manifested in the political condition of contemporary Manipur society and its electoral process. Unfortunately most of the political parties and candidates are unable to generate a substantive issue based electoral politics; they simply fight election for the sake of power as affirmed by their ever-readiness to jump from one party to another. At the same time, most people do not understand which political party stands for what principles, goals, objectives, in short their ideology.  With all these drawbacks, election in our society has become the largest festival of merry-making, having great feasts and carousing, and forgetting everything for some days under the opium spell of electoral festival. Who cares about AFSPA, fake encounters, rights violation, existing conflicts, abnormally high prices of essential commodities, lack of drinking water, misplaced development programmes etc, etc ? Simply, public do not care or in another word, the elected and the electors are equally irresponsible. We only expose our political immaturity by celebrating the periodic elections as sponsored festivals. Coercion, intimidation and direct purchase of votes continue to be the primary deciding factors for any election in the State. In most of the elections held in Manipur, manifesto of a political party, which is supposed to be the most vital aspects, is given least importance. No one take it as seriously as it deserves. Debate over the content of it and review of the previous manifesto which can go a long way in exposing the performance or non-performance of a party are conspicuous by its absence in our society. The end product is the emergence of a heap of lies and lip service as governing political technology.