By Ningombam Bupenda Meitei
Manipur’s 47 Congress MLAs must collectively, and not separately in small groups, call on Sonia Gandhi, the President of Indian National Congress, and Rahul Gandhi, the party’s Vice President as soon as possible to deliberate and exchange views and opinions, which could also be quite contrary to each other, inside a closed door’s meeting instead of giving public statements which appear to be at opposite poles to each other. Some public statements of the Congress members of Manipur, in the last few days, have not only made the common people of Manipur more confused but also helped very much in presenting the Congress party in Manipur in a more ridiculing state of affairs in public’s perceptual minds. Even in Kerala, the party’s high command under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi with Rahul Gandhi is intervening, not interfering per se, between the state’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the President of KPCC (Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee) so that the party led UDF (United Democratic Front) comes again in Kerala for a much better governance. The question is -Who will initiate and make a formal request to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for the entire CLP (Congress Legislature Party) members of Manipur, or the 47 INC (Indian National Congress) MLAs of Manipur, to call on the Gandhis? Such initiative has to be responsibly taken up by none other than the newly appointed MPCC (Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee) President T. N. Haokip, along with the Chairman of CLP who is the Chief Minister of Manipur Okram Ibobi Singh.
Why should the Chairman of CLP and the President of MPCC collectively make the aforementioned formal request to the Gandhis? – is essentially to ensure that both the Manipur government led by the CLP Chairman, who is also the Chief Minister, and the party as a whole led by the MPCC President seriously desire, in the interests of the people of Manipur, to again form the Congress government in Manipur in 2017. But, understanding the views, which have already been distinctly displayed as contrary to each other in public, are of paramount significance as both the opposing views not only reflect the vibrant internal democracy of the Congress but also the logical and ethical questions of a principled politics in the political journeys of the Chief Minister, who promised but could not deliver his own publicly known promise on the 2.5 (or 2& ½) years formula to his own MLAs, and the remaining ministers and Congress MLAs who pose logical arguments and counter arguments on both why such resignation is vehemently unappreciable and why Cabinet reshuffle should unfailingly take place.
Logic and Ethics, which are the essentials of Philosophy, can resolve the conflicts of today’s political dilemma of Manipur’s Indian National Congress party which is unprecedentedly historic in modern Manipuri politics. Philosophy usually gives no singular answer, which perhaps could lead to diversified pluralistic answers and that unresolved grand solution may not be aptly pragmatic in concrete ‘electoral’ politics, and it also inquires further to question the questions to logically counter, as raised by some Ministers of Okram Ibobi Singh’s Cabinet, on why they should resign or be replaced a few months before the election as that could give a public impression that either they, the ministers, were not performing or corrupt or could be both corrupted and underperforming. The counter arguments, logically posited by the Ministers, are questioning the question – Why should not the Ministers resign or be replaced, if not resign on their own, to fulfill the Ibobi Singh’s historic promise to the Congress MLAs? – of the 25 Congress MLAs, who raised their voices to follow one man – one post principle in the party in Manipur and execute Ibobi’s promise on 2.5 years of Ministers’ tenure. While the Ministers and the 25 MLAs in the Congress argue logically, as both their views are logically interesting and politically significant as they further question the morality and ethics of a principled politics of a political leadership of Okram Ibobi Singh, who is not only the Chief Minister of Manipur but who also has become more significantly influential as he has become the peacemaker between the two opposing, as publicly perceived today, groups – the group of Ministers and the other congregation of 25 MLAs. Ibobi Singh’s rise as a peacemaker, negotiating between the two blocs, could be seen as his own fading political strength and charisma in 2016’s Manipur, but it could also be understood as his further rising of concentrative political influence as he becomes a source and point of unifying of all the 47 Congress MLAs, whether dissenting MLAs or the Ministers, of Manipur before 2017, thereby marking himself as an undoubtedly unique, unrivalled and unitedly acceptable as one and only leader of the Congress, and indeed the sine qua non of the Congress in Manipur. The question is – Why has Ibobi Singh, a politician, failed to accomplish his own promise, political and not administrative in nature, to his own MLAs, of the same party to which Ibobi Singh also belongs, after 2.5 (or 2 & ½) years? The larger question is also – Can ‘not fulfilling’ a political promise amongst the political friends of the same party be a ground to question the ethics and moral principles of that promisor who also is from the same party? The ethical problem, in this regard, is the failure of the realization of the political promises. The logical problem is whether the possibility of the failure of the realization of the political promises is necessary or essential to ensure the sustenance of the furtherance of the political power. If Ibobi Singh’s political moral ethics is to be questioned, then at the same time, the timing of the dissenting voice also needs to be looked at both logically and ethically as there is hardly even a financial year left for any new Minister to administer the ministry or department, considering the entire budget allocation of the financial year 2016 – 2017 which is already finalized by the Finance Ministry of Manipur. If Ibobi Singh did promise for Cabinet rotation to take place in 2 & ½ years, then why was he not reminded of his gentleman’s promise when the promised period was almost over in 2014 before Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India?
The present Congress government in Manipur has 12 Ministers, including the post of the Chief Minister. The promise for the rotation of the ministerial berth was expected to include the entire Council of Ministers, including all the ministers such as Deputy Chief Minister too. When Chief Minister takes an oath under the Constitution, he or she takes the oath as the ‘Chief Minister’, but when any other minister, including Deputy Chief Minister or Cabinet Minister, takes the oath, he or she takes the oath as a ‘minister’ only and not as ‘Deputy Chief Minister’ or ‘Cabinet Minister’. Hence, the post of Deputy Chief Minister is to be treated like any other minister. In fact, the Constitution of India does not mention ‘Deputy Chief Minister’ or ‘Deputy Prime Minister’. Article 164 (1) states, “The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister….” In the ‘other ministers’ of Article 164(1), they also include Deputy Chief Minister. Therefore, if other ministers are to be replaced, then the post of Deputy Chief Minister shall also be included in such reshuffle. What was promised was not for a ‘reshuffle’ but for a ‘total transfer’ of ministries from the incumbent ministers to the other Congress MLAs who were supposedly to be ministers-in-waiting. The post of Speaker is not a part of the Council of Ministers. The vacation and resignation of, and removal from, the offices of Speaker and Deputy Speaker are all clearly laid down in Article 179 of the Indian Constitution. To move a resolution in Manipur Legislative Assembly to remove Speaker/ Deputy Speaker from his/her office, Article 181 is to be read. In such constitutional post, changing the Speaker/ Deputy Speaker has to be done constitutionally under the purview of the Indian Constitution.
What essentially is the need of the hour is to unite all the 47 Congress MLAs to collectively fight against the divisive and communal forces of India that have trying to destroy the unity and integrity of Manipur, and it is in this regard that the entire 47 Congress MLAs must go together to call on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to not only air their views but also build up a strong conviction and confidence to again form the Congress government in 2017 to build a more protected and deeply integrated Manipur. Time has come for the entire 47 Congress MLAs to unite and demand for the implementation of Inner Line Permit in Manipur, which was passed in the form of the historic three bills of Manipur by Manipur Assembly under the leadership of the ruling Congress party in Manipur. Having been passed the 3 historic bills of Manipur, the presence of the Congress in Manipur shall and will further defend and protect Manipur from the foreign invasion of illegal occupants from Myanmar and Bangladesh in Manipur. It is with this long vision of the Congress for the future of Manipur, the entire 47 Congress MLAs must and shall go to call on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to demand for a quick acceptance of the 3 Manipur Bills in order to become an Act. The future of the Congress goes together with the future of Manipur, and the future of Manipur, in today’s context, is the passage through ILP in Manipur before 2017 assembly election of Manipur. Without ILP, the election of 2017 Manipur Assembly will hardly have a significant impact for the future of the common people of Manipur. Therefore, the leadership of the Chief Minister of Manipur and MPCC President must take the most matured and far sighted leadership of taking all the Congress MLAs collectively and unitedly to call on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as soon as possible.
Ningombam Bupenda Meitei, author and poet, is the Founder of The Nehruvian.