A reassuring turn 

Imkong Walling 

Elections, be it in Nagaland or anywhere else, are exciting times. With a franchise to elect, that one dispossessed person in the neighbourhood, deprived of the opportunity of having a say on most other occasions, gets to wield power enough to have big shot electoral aspirants and their cronies in folded hands. Such is the power of democracy.

Populist rhetoric may claim otherwise, democracy though is not without flaws. It poses the hazard of majoritarianism that could brutally suppress informed dissent of the minority and the marginalised as is evidenced in the way communities with greater headcount get to have more representatives and stronger voice. It can subdue aspiration for gender equality as was evident in the violent opposition to the reservation of seats (33 percent) for women in the Urban Local Bodies, six years ago in 2017. 

Democracy can also enable politicians to buy sympathy as was with the case of the then Chief Minister crying foul of falling victim to majoritarian politics, which, according to him, cost him the CM’s chair. Only that it was not long before he returned to reclaim the CM’s chair and helm a clearly majoritarian Assembly, also known as, “oppositionless government.”  

Inspite of the fundamental flaws, democracy still has the ability to give voice to the marginalised, including women, in a predominantly patriarchal environment like Nagaland. It can happen by way of affecting a more accommodative spirit in the socio-political discourse, while employing the instruments made available by a democratic institution.

Political parties are one such instrument that can play a transformational role here. Speaking of which, it would not be farfetched to assume that the socio-political discourse in Nagaland, over the past two elections, has taken a more accommodative turn as to influence political parties to finally make the bold move of fronting women in a high stakes electoral game. 

There was a time when women, who took the electoral plunge, hardly got any attention, let alone the prospect of the being handed the ticket of the big parties. They entered the fray as Independents or under the banner of little known parties and largely laughed off as side spectacles with the odds heavily stacked against them.

This time, however, three major political parties of the day have made the bold move of giving space to women in four Assembly constituencies. It could be that the political parties are merely playing to the tune of a growing call for opening up to the idea of women rubbing shoulders with the men in the corridors of power in Nagaland. Call it a PR ploy but the move is indicative of a gradual outlook shift in the broader Naga community, which in itself is reassuring to take note of.

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to [email protected]