Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Need to take a stand

With term of the current 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly expiring by March 12,2023, assembly election to constitute the next 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly has to be held sometime by end of February or first week of March 2023. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has yet to announce the schedule for polling but it is expected to do so either by December 2022 of fist week of January 2023. In the 2018 assembly election, a total of 196 candidates from nine political parties and independents were in the fray for the 59 seats of the total of 60 assembly constituencies. Out of a total of 11, 76,432 registered voters, a total of 10,07,249 cast their votes to register 85.62% polling; a dubious record that Nagaland continues to hold for having the highest turn out in the country in every election. Elections in Nagaland are among the most expensive as with some states. In the assembly elections in Nagaland, a candidate could spend anything from Rs.10 crore to Rs.30 crore , depending on the spending power all candidates seeking to buy a major chunk of around 15,000 or 20,000 voters in different constituencies. In Nagaland, 27 Mokokchung town constituency has lowest number with only 7129 electors. Money plays a crucial factor and considered a “must ingredient” to fight elections and the huge expenditures depend on the spending power of rival candidates but still, does not guarantee victory. There are other factors that candidates need to have such an army of volunteers, to manage campaigns, security and also as muscle power for booth capturing during polling day. Candidates also seek support of various armed groups to support them. Village councils also issue open declaration to their community to vote for a chosen candidate with a warning that those violating their diktats invite dire consequences such as fines and expulsion from the village community. These being among the common practices which are often described as electoral malpractices or ‘evils of election’; the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) and other organisations had decided to counter them with a ‘Clean Election’ campaign since 2012. The NBCC had also organised several interactive sessions with political parties, local churches and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at various levels to spread awareness on the need to cleanse Nagaland elections from these evils. Local churches, by virtue of being under NBCC, continue with campaigns for clean election in the respective towns and villages. Even the court, in response to PIL, had made it clear that diktats issued by village councils to vote or support a chosen candidate was a violation of the Representation of People’s Act 1951. Despite the clean election campaign and court ruling, these practices continue. Therefore, the punitive action against those issuing election diktats should come from the state election department, represented by the DCs of various districts. Also, the person who is declared as the chosen candidate through diktats, should also face disqualification on the ground of corrupt electoral practice. Many in Nagaland, who have been deeply concerned with conduct of elections, blame malpractices as the main cause for corruption and the infamous Khushi-Khushi syndrome. Therefore, if society and the various tribe and church organisations are on the same page against corruption; then they should take a stand otherwise, they will have no moral right to talk against corruption and all such anti-social acts.

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