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Educating The Opposition

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Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It can only be the sheer genius of the person, the historian and moralist Lord Acton in this case, that can come up with such a catching phrase, that has withstood the ravages of time and history to remain relevant at all times, irrespective of which age or era one is talking about. Another outstanding point in this observation is the fact that it not only cuts across the different era of mankind but is equally relevant to human society as well as the system of governance that may come in different forms under different ideologies, such as a democracy, a monarchy, a socialist State, a communist State, a theocratic State or one that is run and managed by a dictator, such as Cuba.

In effect or to put it in layman’s term, Lord Acton literally meant that no one should be allowed or given the space to exercise unrestrained power or authority. In other words, a system of check and balance is needed in every society, is what Lord Acton wanted to convey in no uncertain terms. The interesting point is how the system of check and balance can be put into place to ensure that no one is given or has the room to exercise unrestrained power and authority.

Democracy has an inbuilt system, for it is not only a case of a party being in power but also the party or parties, which are on the Opposition bench. The job of the Opposition is not only to raise questions during Parliament or Assembly sessions, but also entails keeping a tab on the performance of the Government. In fact, it was the growing influence of the Opposition under Jaya Prakash Narain, that forced Indira Gandhi to invoke the provisions of the Emergency, which today is regarded as the biggest blot in the history of modern India. Other than the Opposition there are other inbuilt institutions within any democracy that can take up the work of the Opposition and primarily it is the fourth estate, under the Freedom of Expression, as enshrined in the Constitution, which takes up this role.

Today with 24X7 news channels invading our living rooms and each newspaper trying to attract the readers with a scoop or the other, the media as a whole has become more forceful with more bite. Remember the famous phrase coined by the Express group, ‘Because The Truth Involves Us All,’ during the days of Fairfax and later Bofors controversies that erupted during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi? Remember Deep Throat of The Washington Post and the Watergate scandal that rocked the United States during the time of Richard Nixon? However there is only so much that the fourth estate can do and it is the primary duty of the Opposition to keep the ruling party under constant check and super- vision. It is not for any reason why we have grown up hearing that a strong Opposition is needed to ensure an effective Government, but unfortunately this has been turned on its head, twisted like a piece of rag to squeeze out the last drop of water and given a new definition of the Opposition.  In a democracy, election no doubt counts a lot, for it is a mandate of the people on the credibility, reliability and trust of the people on a political party.

On this front, the State Congress has done very well, and Chief Minister O Ibobi seems set to rewrite another chapter in the political history of modern Manipur, but the ugly reality on the other hand is the fact that not everything can be taken as it appears, for there may be many factors at play other than just the electorate exercising their franchise rights. Money power, muscle power, caste based politics, exploiting religious sentiments etc, are some of the dubious means adopted by almost all the political parties and candidates during election times and these are the factors that we have just referred to. If the Congress is gaining strength day after day or election after election, then it can mean only one thing, that is the decimation of other political parties especially the MPP, which for long has been its strongest rival in the State.

Today the MPP is a pale shadow of its former avatar, when it had people like Allimuddin and others at the helm. In fact, we can say that almost all the political leaders, who are riding the wave of popularity, are products of the MPP School of politics. It is hard to pin point when the MPP started losing ground, but it did and no eye brows were raised when it disappeared from the hill districts, the last MPP MLA from the hills being the late Somi from Chingai Assembly Constituency. It did not need the Congress to dismantle the Cycle, and coincidentally the collapse of the Cycle representing the MPP, started from the time when the Cycle as a means of transportation was being slowly eased out from the roads.

In as much as election politics is important, what is also equally important is not only the strength of the members in the House, but also the ideology and leadership quality of the Opposition. In Radhabinod Koijam, we have a veteran politician who has rightfully been named the Leader of the Opposition in the House, a Cabinet rank post, but so far there is nothing to suggest that the Opposition has learnt any lessons. It does not matter whether there are only four or five members on the Opposition bench, but what matters is bringing up relevant subjects and topics for discussion and debate on the floor of the House and not rhetoric. Remember the time when Rishang Keishing was the lone Opposition member in the House, yet his lone voice as against the 58 on the ruling bench, minus the Speaker, was respected and listened to. This is what is expected from any Opposition.

With the Opposition failing to lead from the front, the job of keeping the SPF Govt on its toes has invariably fallen on the fourth estate of the State but as we have said before, there is only so much that the media  can do. It is time that the MPP and the others come around to the idea that politics is not only about election or forming the Government, but also about keeping the Government on its toes and reflecting the sentiments and aspirations of the common folk, or else the despotic face that our elected leaders have donned will only increase in intensity. Just remember July 23, 2009.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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*The Sangai Express- Largest Circulated News Paper In Manipur
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