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Decipherable By-Poll Lessons

The recently concluded by-election to Konthoujam by-election is rather interesting for it is the first time the ruling Congress party bit the dust in four by-elections during the 9th State Assembly. In the previous three by-elections, Congress candidates recorded convincing victories, if not at ease. What is interesting is not a Congress man losing the election but failure of the 30 sitting Congress MLAs/Ministers to retain Konthoujam seat for the Congress party which had assumed the status of invincibility before the recent record-breaking by-election. The failure of the Congress party to retain Konthoujam seat despite all the efforts made by 30 sitting Congress Ministers and MLAs has some serious implications. If one goes by the record that Konthoujam AC had produced Congress MLAs and even MP in the recent past, the result of the recent by-poll was something totally unexpected. But the people’s verdict has shown very clearly that somewhere something went very seriously wrong with the performance of Congress party in the Assembly segment, if not in the whole State.

It is worthwhile to note Chief Minister Okram Ibobi’s admission that the Congress candidate was humiliated because of utter discontentment among the people. Commenting on the unexpected by-poll results, the Chief Minister went on to say in records that development projects and welfare schemes did not reach people at the grassroots level. But to all thinking citizens, the Chief Minister’s statement was only a euphemism. Did he mean the Congress party fell quite short of people’s expectations? The answer is anybody’s guess. It was every body’s knowledge that Congress leaders, Ministers and MLAs, all concentrated their efforts at their best level to ensure victory for their party man. But in a rare show of people’s power in a democracy, people of Konthoujam AC elected a non-Congress man, much to the surprise of all observers.

The Chief Minister’s acceptance of the by-poll results had the implication that there were some serious flaws and defects in the performance of the Congress-led Government. Here it is heartening to note the Chief Minister’s assurance that whatever commitments given by Congress to Konthoujam people would be put into action regardless of the by-poll result. This is contrary to the open form of coercion made by a Congress Minister in the run up to another by-election. In a sense, the particular Minister made a subtle threat to the voters saying that development projects would elude their constituency if the Congress candidate was not elected. He might be campaigning for his own party but it was, in fact, an audaciously irresponsible statement. How could one overlook the fact that a Minister is not for a single constituency but for the whole state? The elected representatives should not miss the fact that one constituency does not make Manipur or one developed constituency does not make Manipur a developed State.

Whether one is in the treasury bench or opposition bench, all the 60 MLAs must think for Manipur as a whole rather than breeding parochial outlook of confining their activities only in their own constituencies. They should work on a common principle of bringing development in Manipur as a whole on equal footing. Under such a principle, it is only logical to pay greater attention to areas which are relatively more backward. Had this principle been applied, the Chief Minister would not have felt the remorse about development projects not reaching grassroots level.  This commentary is not addressed to Congress party alone but to all political parties and all politicians. Here lies the significance of the Konthoujam by-poll results. All and one should not miss the lessons taught by the by-poll. It demands smooth and effective coordination among all the political parties and the citizens if it is for common good and welfare.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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