The New Chief Minister: His strengths and challenges
By Amar Yumnam
Manipur is facing a most critical phase in her evolutionary trajectory as a society and most challenging time for a Head of the People to prove his mettle. The last few decades have been facing rising socially divisive articulation of interests. There has been a very politically shrewd Head of the People during the last decade and a half. His political acumen has been put into service more for personal political gains. He had the political clout to evolve a shared and encompassing transformation scenario of Manipur, but unfortunately he focused his political capability on something else. The gut feeling of this person was visible no doubt in the lifting of AFSPA from limited areas in the plains of Manipur. But he unfortunately stopped short of applying this strength to the cause of the entity called Manipur as a whole in something other than this act. The power of this gut strength was also visible in the creation of the Seven New Districts, but this has turned out to be mainly political oriented instead of part of a larger design for a grand Manipur.
This is exactly where the new Chief Minister has come into the scenario. He comes into the position in the context of the widespread feeling of failures and lapses of his predecessor. Since he represents the wishes and expectations of the people of Manipur for a change from the administrative style of his predecessor and the consequential challenges of this, the challenges he faces are of a larger kind and of bigger consequential implications. The larger the challenges, the bigger the opportunities. This is where the inherent strengths of the new Chief Minister need to be appreciated.
In a discussion on the current political scenario and the likely implications the other day, a good colleague of mine pointed out that Shri N. Biren Singh also possesses the gut strength of his predecessor to respond and act on a situation. I also agree with this. Besides I also feel certain additional strengths in the new Chief Minister. A very senior and highly reputed scholar on international relationships telephoned me from West Bengal enquiring if the news of a Footballer becoming Chief Minister of Manipur was right. He was happy to hear confirmation of this and I am also happy on this fact. This is because the new Chief Minister has an inherent characteristic in him in working and achieving goals in a group. This is a very important personal trait in a Head of the People in a democracy. The second characteristic I would value in the new Chief Minister is his background as a journalist. This experience as a journalist would certainly couple the strength as a Football Player. As a journalist, he definitely must have seen the dynamics of the crisscrossing of the diverse and conflicting, if any, interests in play in Manipur. Further, he is not a political novice. Above all I would like to add a personal view on him. In the many years of close interactions with him, he has always displayed a shared and larger design for Manipur. This is not a small prerequisite for a political leader in Manipur, given the historical and contemporary contextual realities. All these qualities would stand him in good stead while facing the contemporary political challenges for social transformation in Manipur.
Now that we have a Chief Minister with aptitudes prepared to face the contemporary socio-political challenges for a Smart Manipur, the question is what next. The first few steps and statements emanating from him are very positive. First, he has shown his long term commitment for evolving a governance which touches the life of the people of Manipur irrespective of terrain and distance. But extending coverage of governance without generating opportunities for participation in the development process would be only imposition of violence. This is exactly where another statement of the new Chief Minister is considered a very positive one among the Social Scientists, particularly Economists in Manipur. He has emphatically stated just after assumption of charge of administering Manipur that he would apply his governance to evolve a kind of development model which brings about development contextually in all the terrains of Manipur. As someone conversant with the latest trends in development thinking, I find this particularly attractive. Further his reported statement of creating market centres in the mountain areas of Manipur also sparks a kind of new development trajectory for the people in the interior regions of Manipur. This is a wonderful understanding of the development needs of the people living in the mountain areas of Manipur for increasingly delinking from the exploitation of the fragile nature and linking more with the market. This is the only way to nurture entrepreneurship and facilitate emergence of new economic activities in the mountain areas of Manipur. In fine, in Shri N. Biren Singh we see someone conscientiously committed to establishing a new Manipur where opportunities are equalised and development is inclusive.
If the new Chief Minister is able to carry forward his convictions and establish the development trajectory he has in his mind, it would be path-breaking. He would in this case establish a kind of place in history for himself in a way qualitatively very different from that of his predecessor. Now that his ideas for designing a new Manipur have shown the glimpses, the immediate challenge lies in forming a stable political coalition. We wish him luck in his efforts to prove his political acumen.