While the newsrooms are noisy as usual the conference hall was marked by silence on that particular day. After a long pause, my boss and senior colleague Durbar Ganguly opened his eyes and said as long as there is a BJP government at the centre, there will be a BJP government in Manipur too. The discussion came on the heels of a few ministers and MLAs led by Thongam Biswajit camping in Delhi seeking the replacement of the incumbent chief minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh. Although the camp or rather a revolt ended in a disaster for Biswajit, who dreamed of becoming the Chief Minister being an ‘original karyakarta’ of the saffron party, the episode left a huge psychological impact on Biren Singh personally and his government. The only prayer people had on those days was not to repeat the event of 2001. Fortunately, it didn’t happen in the end.
While Ganguly is partly true in his judgment, probably because of the weak financial position of the state, there is a unique character in Manipur politics, especially in the northeast region, as stated by Govindas Konthoujam, that political principle is still a distant dream for many who believe politics is social work.
So, in the light of ‘rumour’ that Govindas Konthoujam, a one-time heavyweight of Congress party in Manipur politics, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, there shouldn’t be any surprise for it’s been in the making for the last five years. In fact, he was supposed to join the BJP along with N Biren Singh but delayed it due to certain ‘personal reasons’. Who would believe that Okram Ibobi Singh himself was once an invitee to the ruling party, to become Chief Minister of the state?
Congress in Coma!
Like in any profession, the ultimate measure of a public leader is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenges and controversies. Regrettably, for a party that once dominated the entire political spectrum and governed the state for 15 years with over 50 MLAs support in the 60-member Assembly house, stands highly diminished, thanks to its few dishonest, corrupt and unscrupulous leaders. One of the main reasons for the downfall of Congress in Manipur is the division among its cadres from top to bottom because of their egotistical agendas and the high command structure which has little connection with local values and aspirations. The second, and of course the most important reason, is the complete lack of political principle and commitment from these so-called leaders who are supposed to lead from the front at this time of crisis.
So Govindas Konthoujam leaving the Congress and joining a party that pledged a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, should not be seen as an exceptional phenomenon as it’s not the first time such flip flops have taken place and is not going to be the last. Also, except for a few, like Mirabai of Patsoi AC, almost ninety-five percent of the present Congress leaders from Okram Ibobi to recently elected president of MPCC Nameirakpam Loken Singh are all turncoat politicians.
Biren vs Govindas
Whilst it’s undeniably a ‘major boost’ to the ruling saffron party led by Nongthongbam Biren Singh, the entry of his ‘friend’ Govindas, in fact, could backfire and pose a threat to the chief ministerial of Chief Minister Biren, as some insiders confided to this writer. Interestingly, it was not Biren Singh who made the first call to Govindas for discussion over a cup of coffee but was Thounaojam Chaoba, a man who’s credited with bringing up BJP to the present form in the state but has been ‘sidelined’ for quite some time. Reason? To remove Biren Singh and install Govindas like Himanta Biswa Sarma as Chief Minister of Assam in Manipur, according to a political observer.
Although it’s still early days to anticipate what the next few months hold, the unfolding dramas could indeed bring some changes either in the leadership or in the government. But for Congress, it would remain a bad omen for at least 7-8 years, or till the Modi government remains at the Centre.