Biren After Ibobi: The legacy and the challenges
By Amar Yumnam
The recent Elections have been a Thumps Down for Ibobi for sure. Ibobi has had three terms as the Head of the People of Manipur. He has been both lucky and his political acumen too has been proven. He is lucky for the Anti-Defection Act came in time for him to set a new record in Manipur for stability in government and an opportunity to govern to display sparks of acting on gut-feelings; the outcomes of these acts have also revealed his commitment to the core interests of Manipur. Unfortunately starting from towards the end of his Second term and throughout the Third term, the people’s distrust of his administration and allegations of scams dominated the societal talks. It was as if corruption, nepotism and what is usually called crony capitalism got the better of Ibobi as expected by the people in the beginning of the First term. Towards the end of his Third term, the credibility of Ibobi was at the rock bottom. Unfortunately the members of his team also assumed for granted his invincibility in the Manipur Elections and indulged in unwarranted excesses. This led to his undoing; the invincible has been defeated out though not completely. The message was very clear and loud that his Third term excesses were not approved by the people.
While disapproving, the rejection of Ibobi was not lock, stock and barrel. The welcoming of a new regime was not total either. It is in this context that Biren became Chief Minister. Biren has two big responsibilities here. First, he has necessarily to prove himself as qualitatively different from Ibobi. Second, while dismantling the negative legacies of Ibobi, he has to put in place a governance inclusive enough while at the same time asserting the core interests of Manipur.
Given these responsibilities, Biren needs to understand the changed circumstances. When Ibobi started his First term, the expectations of the people were not very high; people just went for a wait and watch policy. Further, the people and particularly the youths were not very critical in their socio-political outlooks and engagements. As stated earlier, people became critical only from towards the end of his Second term. But today, the outlook and engagements of the people are very qualitatively altered. The recent high percentage of voting reflects the arrival of the global trend of assertion by the youths of Generation Y. This generation is very diverse, highly networked and very impatient. This Generation is very critical of lethargy and wants results immediately. The global trend starting from Cairo in 2011 has shown in bold letters that the wishes and demands of this generation can be ignored or sidelined only at huge costs to the political powers that be. Slowly and meaningfully the older members of the world have also set in motion steps converging towards the social designs of this generation. Whereas Ibobi could take his own time to attend to the societal needs of Manipur or otherwise, Biren does not have this luck; he has to immediately show signs of administrative response and responsiveness to the core societal needs of Manipur and manifest delivery of results sooner than later. This is salient from the critical remarks on Biren’s decisions and actions right from the now; there are expressions of disapprovals of his decisions in the social interactions and meetings of the intelligentsia. In these interactions, many are expressing the opinion that Ibobi is better than him in so far as defending the core interests of Manipur is concerned.
It is visible that Biren is facing a tough time endeavouring to stabilize his coalition and effect a coherent decision framework. It must be the reason why a manifest of his government’s command over administrative mechanism and the adopted paradigm for future is yet to emerge. It is of course true that his occasional statements contain elements of a positive and bright future for Manipur, but the decisions reflecting these are awaited..
In these socio-political circumstances and the generational issues involved at this juncture, the priority of Biren should be to put in place a coherent picture of his administration’s approach to cause change in Manipur. The salient picture of compromise and weakness of assertion should be done away with at the earliest. He has to show to the people of Manipur that he means business and that too by putting the core interests of the land and people of Manipur intact. The Central leadership of his own party should also not try to take advantage of the vulnerable position of Biren. If this is done, as looks like as of now, the larger national interests would be compromised. Biren has to prove regionally as well as nationally. Manipur is watching and Biren’s Manipur is an impatient one unlike Ibobi’s was.
(The auther is Professor and Head of Department of Economics, Manipur University)