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EDITORIAL: Umbilical Cord

Down the years, a political culture has taken such firm roots in Manipur, that there is the growing belief that Manipur can prosper only when there is a friendly Government in Delhi. This is perhaps one of the primary reasons why political parties like the Congress (I), with the odd BJP and the third front now and then, have been monopolizing the business of governing the State and why regional parties like the MPP and the now dissolved FPM have had to play a secondary role ever since Manipur became a full fledged State of India in 1972.

There are other reasons, of course, for the gradual decline of the MPP and the premature demise of the FPM but the Delhi factor is just too prominent to be shoved aside. There have also been certain instances from the past which have added a degree of legitimacy to the over the top propaganda that Manipur can taste success and live prosperously only with the blessings of Delhi.

A walk down memory lane, when the United Front Government led by the MSCP, may perhaps help us in understanding this point clearer. Those were the days when Delhi serially came under the rule of different regimes, most of which were cocktails of different political parties, following the failure of either the BJP or the Congress to stitch a workable coalition and form the Government. Those were the days when overdraft, diverting Plan money to meet the salary demands of the Government employees, salaries not paid for months on end etc entered the lexicon of anyone who had the faintest of ideas of what was going on. Shops lying idle with no business transactions of even a rupee, Government employees forced to fall back on credits for months to keep the kitchen fire burning etc are all characteristics that have come to be defined with the troika of Nipamacha as the Chief Minister, Dr L Chandramani as his deputy as well as trouble shooter and Th Chaoba as their man in Delhi.

The BJP did come to power, heading a group of political parties under the nomenclature of NDA Government. The honeymoon of the BJP lasted for only one term, but there was no bail out measures for the State then and Government employees had to survive for months on end, without salaries. In fact the situation was really bad and one will understand this better if one takes into consideration that the salaries of the Government employees served as the primary lubricant that kept the economic wheel of the State turning without making too much of a racket.

Things however changed for the better after the Congress returned to power to head the UPA Government at Delhi in 2004. Manipur by then was already under a Congress led coalition Government and gradually the Union Planning Commission seemed to take a friendlier disposition and before long payment of salaries to the Government employees no longer made news. This is but just one example to give more teeth to our observation and seen against this background, it is not surprising to see the State Government crawling every time Delhi sends ones of its top men to the State and what happened on May 10, when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram landed here, did not go off the beaten track and stuck to script which has been enacted earlier many times.

Mr. Ibobi and his men did not spare any efforts to make the visit of the Home Minister as smooth as possible and the special drive taken up along Tiddim road, or more specifically the stretch of the road between Tulihal airport and Imphal, was something extraordinary. No vehicles were allowed to be parked on either side of the road so as to ensure that no one comes up with the naughty plan of fixing a car or a two wheeler with explosives and park them by the side of the road, where Mr. PC was scheduled to pass through. The State Government did not stop at this but went one step ahead and prevented the media from approaching the Home Minister when he landed at the airport, which not surprisingly, drew the ire of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union and ultimately led to the decision not to cover the Home Minister’s itinerary in Manipur.

No one will question the tight security thrown around Mr. Chidambaram, but it will need a buffalo’s hide or a blind eye not to take note of servile behavior of the State Government. Providing adequate security and ensuring the safety of a leader is something which is very different from groveling at the feet of some VIPs from Delhi. Mr. Ibobi and his men were certainly under the impression that they needed to bend backward to please the man behind the idea of setting up the National Investigation Agency. Mr. Chidambaram came here with a reputation to boot, a man regarded as a tough task master, a man on the go and someone with a high intellect. Along with this, haughtiness is a term that appears to sit comfortably on his persona and maybe it was this soft spot, the pride of the man from Tamil Nadu, which Mr. Ibobi and his men sought to massage and thereby get into the good book of Delhi.

It is a different matter that it will need more than a public display of servitude to score some points, for it is not for nothing that Mr. PC, who was catapulted to the hot seat after the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, is known as a no nonsense political leader. We are more than sure that the Home Minister would not have noticed the roads being cleared of all parked vehicles to make his passage smoother, for there are other things more important facing the State. Even if the State Government had not taken the trouble of reminding everyone to remove their parked vehicles from the sides of Tiddim road, we doubt if it would have made any difference to him. It says something very significant when our homegrown political leaders feel the need to bend backward and go overboard in rolling out the red carpets for any dignitaries from Delhi. It is not just a question of the umbilical cord that ties Manipur to Delhi, but something more profound and meaningful.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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