Monday, August 8, 2011

Politics is all about power

Former Prime Minister of India, PV Narasimha Rao has rightly said that politics is the art of the possible; anything can happen in politics, a foe can turn friend overnight and vice-versa as long as power is shared between those destined to hold power. It seems for politicians of every hue there is only one important rule and that is to capture power by whatever means. Many, particularly Congress legislators in Mukul’s camp would not have expected that the MLA from Langkyrdem, Prestone Tynsong to be the twelfth man in Mukul’s cabinet. One would expect that someone from Mukul’s camp or even some other legislator from the opposite camp to be the twelfth man, but Tynsong was not on their radar screen.

If we are to believe Mukul Sangma who said before Tynsong took the oath of office, that selecting a cabinet minister is the CM’s prerogative, it remains to be seen if choosing Tynsong is a smart move or a blunder for Dr Sangma. Only time will tell if Tynsong will remain a foe or is a changed man since converted to a true friend (or as my daughters would say BFL best friends for life) especially because he was reinstated during the friendship week. Now the question for the Chief Minister is no longer the vacant 12th seat on the high table of power in the state but whether the twelfth man he has chosen will be Peter who would stand like a rock or remain a Judas who betrays the master at any available opportunity?

So far so good for the shrewd Langkyrdem MLA! Tynsong always managed to get himself a cabinet berth in almost every government in the state since he was elected MLA. Media persons have rightly questioned Tynsong whether he had inherited the knack to always be on the right side of the fence from his predecessor BB Lyngdoh or it has to do with the daw/rngiew (fate) of the constituency or sheer luck? But luck or no luck as for now Tynsong is a happy man even if it amounts to betraying his fellow legislators. For Tynsong it seems there is nothing wrong in switching sides as long as he is on the right side of power.

The leader of the opposite camp, DD Lapang claimed that the outcome of the settlement in the last Delhi durbar was to re-instate the four dropped cabinets but I bet that will be a difficult task for Mukul. The Congress claim of providing stable government during the elections is highly debatable if the state has to see cabinet reshuffle every six months. Now that Dr. Mukul has reinstated Prestone Tynsong as a cabinet minister the question is, can the MUA afford another cabinet reshuffle before 2013? The hope of the three MLAs axed from the cabinet and also many aspiring Congress party legislators is for another one last cabinet reshuffle before 2013. It matters not even if it is for mere six months period because everybody wants to face the election as a minister and only goodness knows why? For politicians it is not, ‘it is all about money, honey’, but it is all about power and nothing else because power is the source of money and more money.

Very recently, through media reports we were made to understand that there seems to be one exception to the common argument held by every politician that one can only serve one’s constituency by being in power. Common people are made to believe that there is one politician who does not follow the standard rule followed by the politicians ‘that one cannot serve the constituency without being in power.’ Pynshngain N Syiem MDC MLA Mawsynram is reported to have offered to resigned as the CEM of the KHADC stating that he would like to spend the remaining part of his tenure as the MLA and MDC to serve the people of his constituency. It was reported that Pynshngain offered to relinquish his position as the CEM of the KHADC to enable him to serve his constituency better. Only few people would buy this argument.

Everyone, even a kid in the street knows that there is no exception to the rule; all politicians would like to be in power and stay in power as long as possible. Their sole objective is to hold power some way or the other and any kind of power will do as long as it gives the person authority, powers and control. But there is a great difference in the way the three politicians in the state i.e. Dr. Mukul Sangma, Prestone Tynsong and Pynshngain Syiem retain their power.

We all know how Dr. Mukul used all means, by hook or by crook to stay in power even if it means not convening the Congress Legislature Party meeting for fear of being outnumbered by his opponents. Lucky for him that calling the CLP meeting is again another of his prerogatives but does this augur well for intra-party democracy in the party? Mukul stuck to the Chief Ministerial post like the leech to a human skin and it worked. No matter what other people including one’s colleague say, one should hold on to power if one wants to remain in power, come what may. Pynshngain Syiem used another trick to retain power; he offered to resign knowing that every MDC is a potential CEM candidate and ultimately he will retain the CEM’s post therefore offered to resign. On the other hand Pynshngain’s offer to resign was also an opportunity to test his popularity amongst his fellow MDCs and in the party and the outcome of the resignation episode is that it reinforces his position as CEM of the KHADC. Pynshngain emerged a stronger CEM from the few days of political drama in the KHADC, but the question is, does it? If Pynshngain is confident of being re-elected in 2013, he wouldn’t have influenced the powers that be to send a senior bureaucrat packing to Kolkata just because there is a rumour that he was tipped as a potential candidate against him in the next election.

Tynsong used an altogether different trick by rocking the boat he is in and any time an opportunity opens up he would jump to leave the sinking boat to its fate while he himself will survive the storm. And it has always worked for him! All the three politicians employ different tactic to stay in power and it works the same for all of them.

The fact that politics in Meghalaya is a perpetual power tussle among the politicians is very obvious in the three ADCs in the state. The Garo Hills Autonomous District Council has been under Administrator’s rule for more than six months and now it is the turn of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council to be in the administrator’s rule and goodness only knows for how long? The case of Jaintia hills is peculiar in the sense that the people voted the Congress to majority and subsequently the UDP MDC joined the party which means that Congress has the majority of 28 MDCs in the house of 29+1 nominated MDC. Who would ever think that Lamdibok’s EC is threatened when the party commands an absolute majority in the house? But politics is but a game to capture power. Hambertus Nongtdu who was ousted by Lamdibok Sumer used the remaining two opposition members Moonlight Pariat and E.S. Lyngdoh to propose a No Confidence Motion against Lamdibok’s EC and like they say the rest is history. Now if two (now only one) opposition member can defeat the Congress EC which has 28 MDCs in the 30 member house then the much talked about party discipline and the party’s claim of providing stability is but only the clanging of cymbals which reverberates in the wilderness.

The way both the legislative assembly and the councils were run during the last few years of this term is not something that will augur well for the Congress party which dominates the assembly and the three councils. The party will have a lot of convincing to do to persuade the people to vote for the party again on the promise of a stable EC or a stable Government. People have already seen that the Congress legislators and Councillors care a hoot about stability of the EC or the Government, but care only about the stability of their own powers and position. The Congress should set its house straight and it should start from Jaintia hills. If Congress allows Hambertus to become CEM it will not only fall into the trap of the lone opposition member who Hambertus hopes to accommodate in the next EC, but it is a matter of shame for the party and also questions the much talked about discipline in the party.

(The author is a research scholar and an elder of the Unitarian Church)

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