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A difficult road map

23 Apr. 2017 11:19 PM IST

Nagaland is scheduled to go to the polls early 2018 by February-March though there are strong speculations that the schedule could be advanced to December 2017 before Christmas. The second option appears quite unlikely but again there is no guarantee that the Election Commission of India would not deem it likely after consideration of various factors. Be that as it may, what has been gaining ground lately has been the issue of ‘clean elections’ as initially spearheaded by the NBCC in a big way during 2012 and which today has been given the push by the state Election Department and subsequent awareness meetings with various tribe hohos, NGOs and civil society groups. Some organisations have taken a pledge for ‘clean election’ and have toured some areas to share the concern and holding public meetings to encourage public to affirm towards clean election. Some of the known practices which have been responsible for undemocratic elections in Nagaland, had been introduced in the late 70s and by the 80s they have become a feature of elections. Elections became a dirty fight with every means justifying the end such as youth camps, distribution of cash, manipulation of electoral rolls, conspiracy with polling officials, proxy voting or en-bloc to booth capturing (‘couping’) and the addition of armed cadres of various outfits enforcing their diktats have complete the picture. The clean election campaign is a difficult and tough job and would need more than pledges. Booth capturing is a must where hired supporters of a candidate continue to recycle in the queue and thwart attempts of other voters or when threats or diktats have been issued against voting for any other candidate(s). Bogus voters or impersonators continue to be the other offenders in the system and who need to be booked and taken to task but due to inability (for whatever reason) of polling and civil officials, the practice thrives. Impersonators openly cast votes with the approval of all polling agents and has become a “done thing”. Bogus votes come from muscle power of hired goons and also gunmen to threaten voters. Underage voting is also a trend in elections which needed to be curbed. In some places, the practice of “adopted for vote” or lending local surnames to non-locals is rampant. There can be no clean election, if electoral rolls are not “purified” to remove names of dubious persons or there can be clean election worth mentioning. The process for clean election should start right from nomination to check if candidates are hiding their possessions in terms of cash and properties. Almost all declarations of income and assets are questionable and this should be looked into. Only former chief minister K.L. Chishi boldly declared properties worth around Rs.50 crore while many who probably, have five times worth of properties, shamelessly declared having hardly even Rs.5 or Rs.10 lakh worth of properties. Most have also shown ridiculous amount or say Rs.2 or Rs.5 lakh as cash in bank, whereas most have no less than Rs.10 to Rs. 50 crore cash in hand and some even to Rs.100 or above. Clean election demands that people/voters have to choose who has a good track record of public service and those seeking for clean elections, to boldly stand for truth, without fear or favour.

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