A ‘vital’ collateral damage

The poll bugle has already been sounded in Nagaland. With perceptible activism in air, it was unofficially blowing for a long time, till the formal announcement on January 18 by the Election Commission of India.

 

Notwithstanding the call for ‘Solution before Election’ from many quarters, electoral machineries have been kick started in full-swing by the Government as well as other stakeholders. New political alignments are formed each day and with party hopping in full throttle.

 

Against this backdrop, it is a crucial time to raise the banner of Clean and Fair Election in Nagaland. The desire for such election is unequivocal among the Nagas, but ironically politics has become its biggest stumbling block.

 

Though, white flags symbolizing support for Clean Elections are fluttering in many households across the state, the movement is faltering at this most critical juncture.

 

When the ‘Clean Election Campaign’ (CEC) was re-activated last year, especially by the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), there were many skeptics, given the state of affairs generated by previous election.

 

In small measure, however, the idea was trickling down to the ground – as reflected by the spawning of ‘Clean Election’ flags in many homes across the state.

 

However, the movement is now directionless – an unfortunate collateral damage due to the unfolding political scenario in the state. Its torchbearer, right now, is on a collision course.

 

When the ‘Clean Election Campaign’ was gaining traction last year, The Morung Express had highlighted several systematic and ground realities, which hinder the CEC campaign.

 

Among others, it noted that the campaign is in danger of becoming an exercise for the elite with negligible impact in the interiors. People were confused at the ground level.

 

This is true. The State Commission recently informed that out of 2194 Polling Stations in the state, 1735 are rural, and only 459 are located in urban settings.

 

Right now, devoid of any direction from the top, the people are not only confused but giving away to skepticism in the interior and the wave is dying.

 

The usual symptoms of electoral mal-practices are village declaration, clan and range consideration, and proxy voting, money and muscle power. In such a scenario, community voting or collective decision is perceived to be all right so long as villagers give it to one particular person.

 

For instance, take the case of monetary factor. The YouthNet comparative analysis of the last two Assembly elections in Nagaland (2008 and 2013) revealed that the total estimated expenditure of 216 candidates in 2008 was a cool Rs 569.96 crores, while 184 candidates spent a whopping Rs. 937.82 crores in 2013. These factors have socio-cultural, religious, economic as well as political undertones, thereby serving as the biggest stumbling block and litmus test for any clean election campaign.

 

Thus, CEC is also mutating to a curious phenomenon. Without a clear direction, allegations are also being leveled that those supporting the CEC are the ones using money power to influence voters, and therefore, are not supporters in principle.

 

The moment was ripe for revamping the CEC bottoms up. However, with the main protagonist missing in action, can the State Election Commission as well as conscientious citizen take the mantle of a fair and free election?