Tuesday, January 31, 2023

New Year for clean election

Election in Nagaland is scheduled sometime during end of February or first week of March 2023 but even before the notification has been officially issued by the Election Commission of India(ECI), supporters of rival intending candidates in Khar village have already warmed up to the chilling winter with the election ‘fight’ on Thursday evening in which some 25 were injured some with bullet and pellet injury. The clash between rival groups may also reveal the dark underbelly of Nagaland elections where democracy has no place except force, coercion or violence. It is not known whether the clash was triggered because the village community meeting was to have been held on that day with regard to candidacy of interested persons. Another factor is how in many places, certain villages or organizations issue a diktat at to the electorate to vote for a particular candidate or party, thereby making a mockery of the process. In some places it has become almost a tradition where some traditional or village authorities or organizations issue undemocratic diktats to vote for a particular candidate of the party. This has proved to be a very serious unconstitutional, undemocratic and criminal offence and which have led to the virtual hijack of the democratic process. The clash on Thursday also serves to remind society and authorities across the state on the need to put into place mechanisms to discourage such practices. One could be to remind village authorities that involvement in electioneering will invite suspension of government fund if proven beyond doubt. The other is to hold candidate(s) responsible and accountable for causing injury, fatality or damage(s) to properties and inviting filing of criminal charges and if subsequently proved in the court of law, the candidate will be disqualified if that candidate won the election. If a losing candidate is proved guilty for offences in the court of law, then that candidate should be debarred from contesting the subsequent election. While the Nagaland Baptist Church Council(NBCC) is still trying to educate people on the need for clean elections, there are other issues that have a direct and crucial bearing on elections and the way they are conducted, held and their impact on society and the government. Electoral malpractices, vices, offences etc are synonymous with election process, especially in the light of the experience in Nagaland that were rampant from the early 80s where the electoral system was virtually hijacked. These included youth camps, distribution of cash(to buy votes), manipulation of electoral rolls, conspiracy with polling officials, to proxy voting or en-bloc to booth capturing ( ‘couping’); today youth brigade some with illegal weapons are becoming a necessary evil in elections. Elections in Nagaland are not only about money power but muscle and gun power. It is a matter of very deep regret that money, especially, has come to play a very dominant role in the democratic process. In reality, the process is most undemocratic and a slur on the honour of the people. If elections in Nagaland is practically as cash-for-vote process, then it is a clear reflection that money tips scales in favour of those who can spend large sums of money which can only be obtained through dubious means. Therefore, on the eve of New Year 2023 the people and voters in Nagaland ought to come clean on what they will do if they desire and deserve clean election; if they want responsible and accountable representatives.

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