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Not Shuffling A Pack Of Cards

It would be well nigh impossible to pin point a single factor, why a Government in power goes in for a reshuffle of its Ministry for the pulls and pressures of politics are immense.  This is all that more so with the emergence of regional political parties and regional satraps, who can play king makers or mischief makers, depending on which way one looks at it, but at the core, there are certain  points which are intrinsic to any reshuffling of a Ministry. A reshuffle could be effected on the basis of the need to induct fresh talents or fresh faces, drop a Minister or two for non-performance or on grounds of corruption, rotate the portfolios so that the right man is in charge of the right department, induct a new face to win over a community or a group of people and thereby begin the process of building a vote bank or at times purely to settle a personal score.

A balanced composition, in which no region is felt betrayed or unrepresented is another factor that comes into play, not only at the time of reshuffling but also at the time the Council of Ministers is first formed. With coalition Government becoming the order of the day, the formation of the Council of Ministers as well as during the time of any reshuffling has become all that more complex and very often, we have seen merit and competency being sacrificed for reasons such as the need to accommodate the demands or desires of a partner in the Government. This was what the Left, a major partner in the Government then, tried to do in 2008, when it tried to extract its pound of flesh, when India was on the verge of signing the nuclear deal with the US, forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to move a Trust motion in Parliament.

Such practice is what has now become an intrinsic part of politics as understood and practiced in the world’s largest democracy. Ideally, the objective of a reshuffle should mean, shedding the extra adipose, read the non-performing Ministers, the corrupt and tainted and inducting fresh faces to give the Government a new whiff of life. However as things have unfolded down the years, performance, integrity and other positive traits have been more often overlooked with the stress laid on building vote bank, pandering to the whims and demands of some maverick partner in Government and the most distasteful of all, settling personal scores, by shifting a Minister to a nondescript portfolio or by simply dropping him or her without any major reason.

Manipur is no stranger to this unpleasant side of power politics and ever since it attained Statehood in 1972, the people here have had the opportunity to watch the twists and turns, the betrayal, politically motivated violence, floor crossing, perfecting the art of sycophancy, taking personal interest into the affairs of the public domain, settling personal scores etc. In short everyone, particularly the persons responsible should realize that reshuffling the Council of Ministers is something very different from shuffling a pack of cards before a game is played.  The first reshuffle of the SPF Government in its second innings, which was effected a few days ago, did not have any shock value nor did it demonstrate or reflect any determined decision on the part of the Chief Minister to take tough decisions and remind his Ministers that they are ultimately accountable to the people. It was nothing more than some cosmetic changes, with a chop there and an addition here.

It says something about the person in Ibobi, that he did not capitalize on the confidence that Delhi has reposed on him, to give a more polished and well rounded Council of Ministers in the first reshuffle of his Ministry.  That performance was not the yard stick was evident and it came only as something of a gesture, in removing the Education portfolio from L Jayanta Kumar. Here too, there is the nagging doubt that it was not only performance, but the farce that was enacted in the officially ‘˜unofficial’ list of matriculate teachers, that saw Jayanta divested of the Education portfolio. Power supply continues to be one of the major nightmares of the people, but instead of taking any pro-active action, the Minister in charge of Power seems to have won over the Chief Minister and landed the plum Tribal Development portfolio as an addition to his earlier portfolios.

In so far as the spirit of coalition Government is concerned, the Chief Minister has been exemplary in handling its partner and never once has he or the Congress Legislature Party treated the Left as a lesser partner and this says something about the character of Ibobi as a man. However as the Chief Minister, there are still many unanswered questions on the manner he has accommodated the CPI MLAs. Respecting and acknowledging a partner in a Government is   always a positive trait, but when it comes to sacrificing competency just to accommodate someone from the partner, then it cannot be for the good of all. Ph Parijat, the veteran Left leader from Lamlai AC has been moved back to Agriculture. If the past is any indication, then there is nothing to write home about his performance while he was in charge of this portfolio. Remember the ruckus kicked up over the acute shortage of fertilizers, during the 52 days economic blockade of 2005?

The shortage dragged on for days or months after the blockade was called off amid widespread talks and speculations of favoritism coming to the fore. Moreover the fertilizer drama enacted at the Sekmai police station by our elected representatives was a disgrace. As the FCS Minister he did no better. How these facts or records were not taken into consideration says something profound and is sure to reflect on the character of the Council of Ministers. Y Erabot, the man seen as the rebel Congressman in the Council of Ministers, had to face the unpleasant experience of seeing the Consumers Affairs, Food and Public Distribution portfolio taken away from him for no apparent reason and given to another Minister who not only is in charge of a major Department, but is widely regarded as the Man Friday of Ibobi. Other than his belligerence against the Chief Minister’s style of functioning, Erabot was doing fine as the Minister of this important portfolio and without a doubt his integrity is above questioning and hence the question why he was stripped of this portfolio is mired in whispers amid speculations that the CM has extracted his pound of flesh.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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