Et tu, Brute: Governance challenge in today’s Manipur


By Amar Yumnam

A few weeks ago, I had written in this very column appreciating the commitment and robust attempts by Biren as Chief Minister to bring about real world socio-politico-economic changes in Manipur. I had also written “that Biren is functioning under heavy constraints.” Then I had emphasised the fiscal constraints amongst others that Biren faces while putting his ideas into action and performance for shared prosperity. But as of now, it seems other weaknesses or constraints of the governance under him emerging in a rather fast way; in such a way demanding his attention and corrective interventions to save the credibility of his government and own leadership capability.

Every society evolves and the speed of the evolution gets only faster with the rise in the stock and complexity of knowledge in each individual in the society. Only few years ago a classic joint study of MIT and Harvard put it: ”The secret of modern societies is not that each person holds much more productive knowledge than those in a more traditional society. The secret to modernity is that we collectively use large volumes of knowledge, while each one of us holds only a few bits of it. Society functions because its members form webs that allow them to specialize and share their knowledge with others.” When Biren assumed the charge of the Head of the People of Manipur, there definitely was a socio-political milieu as legacy. First, in this milieu the people were looking for a change in the political atmosphere and governance approach of the ruling regime just preceding him. Second, during the period of the previous regime the awareness and understanding of the prevailing dynamics of the relationship between the people and the government had been heightened and particularly towards the end. Third, while the longing for change was visible, the social component was such that those longing for it did not constitute a clear dominant group.

It is in this context that when Biren gave a strong manifestation of an alternative character and orientation of the governance over land and people of Manipur, the expectations of the people have been given a renewed vigour. Well, there are global political economic lessons establishing the periods of transition as the most critical ones. As Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in his classic The Prince long back, “And it should be realized that taking the initiative in introducing a new form of government is very difficult and dangerous, and unlikely to succeed. The reason is that all those who profit from the old order will be opposed to the innovator, whereas all those who might benefit from the new order are, at best, tepid supporters of him. This lukewarmness arises partly . . . from the skeptical temper of men, who do not really believe in new things unless they have been seen to work well. The result is that whenever those who are opposed to change have the chance to attack the innovator, they do it with much vigour, whereas his supporters act only half-heartedly; so that the innovator and his supporters find themselves in great danger”. The message is that Biren has necessarily to be attentive to public opinion and attitudes (already aggressively aroused by the norms of governance under the previous regime), the involvement behaviour of the vested interests and the inherited inertia of the administrative organ of the government.

This is exactly where there is urgency of a renewed appreciation of the contemporary approach to understanding and evolution of policies for social transformation and economic advancement. Every society does face challenges consequent upon the dynamics of evolution and in the process develops capacity to address the rising complexities. This is particularly so with rise in interconnectedness. However in this process the realisation has also emerged globally that contextualisation of the understanding of the dynamics and framing of policies to address the roadblocks are paramount. In the governance literature, it is understood like this: “The toolbox is overflowing; best practice manuals in various areas of interest tumble out of seminars and workshops. However, difficulties arise when attempts are made to apply what are often excellent technical solutions under real-world conditions. Human beings, acting either alone or in groups small and large, are not as amenable as are pure numbers. And they cannot be put aside. In other words, in the real world, reforms will not succeed, and they will certainly not be sustained, without the correct alignment of citizens, stakeholders, and voice.”

In this background we feel Biren as being constrained particularly by two powerful self-interest groups – one exogenous and another endogenous. The exogenous group poses as possessing wonderful tool-boxes of knowledge and policy formulation. The endogenous group indulges in jumping the gun to curry favour of the Chief Minister. Unfortunately both these groups manifest as jumping the queue. Above all, both the groups are already causing damage to the cause, commitment and credibility of Biren as Head of the People of Manipur. But when it comes to the critical test, both these groups may not mind a recurrence of “Et tu, Brute?”- Latin meaning “and you, Brutus”? – a phrase made famous by William Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar while depicting the assassination of Caesar and uttered by him while he saw his trusted friend Brutus among the assassins finishing his life and rule.

Source: Imphal Free Press


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