Money talks, voters listen

Imlisanen Jamir

A recent report from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) report reveals that 75% of the sitting MLAs in Nagaland are crorepatis. This is a significant increase from the 2018 elections, where 51.2% of the candidates were crorepatis. This data shows the fact that elections in Nagaland have always been a rich man's game.

It is worth noting that not all candidates who were crorepatis in 2018 won their elections, but the fact that the percentage of crorepatis among sitting MLAs is so high suggests that being wealthy is a significant advantage in Nagaland's electoral process. Wealth and power are closely intertwined, and it is clear that in Nagaland, the wealthy and powerful have a disproportionate influence in the electoral process.

Elections in Nagaland are increasingly becoming a contest between the rich and powerful, rather than a contest between competing ideas and policies. This is detrimental to the democratic process, as it limits the representation of diverse voices and interests in the state legislature.

The dominance of the wealthy and powerful in the electoral process can further entrench existing inequalities and lead to a lack of social mobility. It also perpetuates the systemic inequalities that exist in Nagaland, as the wealthy and powerful are often able to use their positions of power to further entrench their own privilege.

The trend of wealthy and powerful individuals dominating the political landscape is a reflection of a larger problem within the political system: the perception that only the rich and powerful can be viable leaders for their constituents.

It's well known that wealth and power are closely correlated, and individuals from marginalized communities often lack the resources to compete with wealthy candidates. As a result, voters may feel that they have no choice but to vote for the wealthiest and most powerful candidates, even if they do not align with their values or interests.

The wealthy and powerful are also often able to use their resources to influence public opinion in their favor. This can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where voters come to believe that the rich and powerful are the only viable leaders because they are the only ones who are visible and heard in the public sphere.

One of the main reasons for this perception is the enticement of voters through money, promises, or benefits to certain communities when candidates come to power. This has been a longstanding practice in Nagaland, where candidates have used their wealth and influence to secure votes through various means. This has created a culture where voters have come to expect that candidates will provide them with tangible benefits.

The problem with this perception is that it stifles the growth of new leaders who may not be as wealthy or powerful, but are more capable of serving the people and working towards their betterment. It also allows for the perpetuation of corruption and the concentration of power in the hands of a select few.

While they stopped short of saying it aloud, even the Chief Electoral Officer of Nagaland and the Deputy Commissioner of the State capital recently implied that there is something inherently wrong with the electoral process in Nagaland. 

Referring to the extremely high voter turnout in elections, the officers said “We don’t have a system of transparency where these things come to light and we can take quick actions and we can take care of the culprits and we can actually advise the people that it is wrong.”

Clean election declarations and voter sensitisation workshops or seminars seem like a start on the surface, but how much weight have seminars and declarations carried over the course of our society’s history?

Comments can be sent to imlisanenjamir@gmail.com