If You Believe Election Will Bring Social Change, Here’s an Idea Why That Is Quite a Misconception
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Image: Hindustan Times/ANI
Psephologists and supporters of the elected MLAs in the recently concluded Manipur Assembly Election would want to kick my ass, but at the cost of this threat I’d like to make a few statements.
This election tells so many things about us, but so little about anything positive.
Let me start with a fact: Political reform is a myth; and electoral politics mere hokum. This statement might be quixotic if we consider the facts and figures of the largest democracy called India but apparently arithmetic does not dictate our lives and thus the idea of a myth. Besides, we have had so many elections but nothing change. For that matter, we have one of the first democratic elections in Asia as a sovereign state even before the union of India but, as we can see, that amounts to zero change.
Some of the people, who are close to or follow the elected MLAs and who worship the elected representatives, might see fault in this argument but against all of them combined together, let’s prove they have some serious issues with their maths. Or what else would explain the numbers that determine who will loot the land and oppress the people for a recurring term of five years? The former Congress-Ibobi government is more than enough to prove it.
If election is referred to as the dance of democracy, then by the Hindu belief system, Apsara must be drowning in her own tears, seeing the filth all around in the name of ‘dance’. However, this makes sense only when we talk about election in Manipur as it is some sort of a festival in which we, the common people, take part in the mass orgy that is full of sound and fury but signify nothing.
Now, let’s come directly to the point. Let’s name names of five winning candidates of the election and see what it implies, such as when we are told that political reform is a myth and that numbers indicate some serious maladies with our collective life.
Observations related to elections and democracy 1.0
The Frame of the Farce
Andro, located in Imphal East, boasts of one of the most important cultural sites in Manipur. We can try so many things in this small town ranging from high quality booze to kickass cultural artefacts but when it comes to electoral politics, it’s a shame. As a candidate of the Indian National Congress, Thounaojam Shyamkumar won the election defeating an old-timer, Nimaichand Luwang—it will be better if we do away with the name of the political parties they belong to—by around 8,000 votes. Just after the election Mr Thounaojam jumped ship, joined BJP and almost gatecrashed into the oath-taking ceremony of the BJP-led government at the colonial Raj Bhavan in the heart of Imphal. And he succeeded.
Anyway this guy is not new to news in the town. He had been arrested for charges including, amongst others, extortion and having links with proscribed organisations but then, this is the Indian democracy: Anybody can be an MLA as long as you have the money and muscle power. It is a tragedy that the people cannot simply read between the lines. It’d be hell of an elitist position to blame the people but we are by default, followers and stupid too. In the same breath, ‘I’ is included in the ‘people’.
Observations related to elections and democracy 2.0
We would usually love to hear about the Loukoipat and the market when we talk about Bishenpur, but as in Andro, there has been a big question mark over the authenticity of the people’s mandate when we hear about MLA Konthoujam Govindas. It must be a coincidence but his name is quite fitting. First, Bishenpur is officially Bishnupur, the land of Vishnu, and second, just like the playboy-ishness of Krishna, he was caught with his pants down with sex workers in Kolkata, when Manipur was burning in 2001.
Does age or year bring changes? Only Mr Konthoujam can answer it. Incidentally, he also has a famous neighbour (in the adjoining assembly constituency of Nambol), Nameirakpam Loken, whose name might appear in the future regarding the sickness of our society but for today, let’s stick to the five names that we started with.
Observations related to elections and democracy 3.0
We can take the four Okram family members in this case. They are quite a political family; and nobody would have guessed their rise. Picture this: old-timer Okram Ibobi has been looting Manipur for the last 15 years as the ringmaster elected from Thoubal; it is only unfortunate that he will be in the opposition this term. Likewise, his son Okram Surjakumar—who has earned himself the name of a reputed contractor from the Loktak Scam—has been elected from Khangabok.
Seemingly, we are not satisfied with the father-son duo so, the people of Wangkhei have also put up Okram Henry, an alleged drug smuggler, as their representatives. If this is not insanity, nobody will be able to tell what is.
Until ten days ago, O Ibobi’s wife, Okram Landhoni was an MLA from the Khangabok constituency but she was so generous that she has allowed her son to take over the family business for the 2017–2022 term. Again, the same question arises—why, but the election is over and nobody gives a rat’s ass on how or why.
Now we have the master of fake encounters: Yumnam Joykumar. This smart gentleman is a former director general of police and, say, the love for his people and motherland has prompted him to join politics. In an incestuous style, his supporters would not even care about state terrorism, in which Mr Yumnam is a role model, but then we are Manipuris.
The founder of his party, the notable speaker of India, PA Sangma has been in cahoots with BJP, or the National Democratic Alliance from day one. Yet, if we go by the latest news report, his party—that has been supporting the BJP with its four members and dealing in some serious monkey business for self-satisfying political gains—will get some important portfolios soon. Leaving aside the ass trading (which is known as horse trading elsewhere) Mr Yumnam has already taken oath as the deputy chief minister along with the Home portfolio. Nobody is supposed to talk about fake encounters now.
Observations related to elections and democracy 4.0
When all the names are declared as having ‘no-crime-record-officially’ it is difficult to see who’s who. For instance, Okram Ibobi declared he was ready to go to prison if he is proven to be guilty in any crime (read ‘daylight robbery’) though a source like Wikileaks has proven why he is known as Ibobi–10%. He is also one of the poorest MLAs; Yumnam Joykumar is as white as a ‘chebaang’; and Okram Henry is not sure whether he is Henry or not when he was called up by the judiciary in relation to a drug smuggling case.
Ultimately, the fifth name is thy Manipur—and as always, followers must be waiting for their golden chances to get a project or a contract. Albeit, there are also altruistic people who are only glad that their choice of candidates has turned out to be successful regardless of whether they are in/related to the ruling party and opposition.
No Name Needed Now
Out of the sixty ‘models’, it was no effort to pick just five of them. The show must go on for democracy but it cannot go on forever. Funnily, a national leader like Narendra Modi can come to the town and make promises that nobody cares about (Rahul Gandhi also came but without his mother; so no mention)— when the agenda of his parent organisation is based on a pathetic Hindutva ideology.
As George Carlin would say, politicians give us the idea that we have a choice but we don’t; rather we only have owners who control everything in a ‘democratic’ society and they control us by holding our balls and they want just obedient, conformist people and never those who think critically. They talk about rigged elections like Sapam Keba of Patsoi assembly constituency is up to these days—but never for those interests of the people unless it’s a nonchalant pre-election promise or a gimmick to earn some political mileage.
This is why political reform is a myth even if we have the ‘likely’ clean image of the Nongthombam Biren government (though there is another issue of Congress members mass defecting to BJP in the run-up to the election).
Truth be told, any kind of reform is possible only through the destruction of the existing establishment and if not, we will always go by sentiments and half-baked truths that the elected representatives and their supporters will be feeding us. At the end of the day, New Delhi is okay as long as there is a slavish political class in the state.
But what can we say now?
They are already the elected representatives; not through some militaristic method of the Burmese style, but by universal adult franchise. Now, it is totally another story how democracy can be filled with ironies and contradictions and exist as a sort of illusion. Now, also, it depends on us how the system works and how much do we care about our collective life and we need no psephologist or expert to understand this reality.