Nagaland Elections sans hope

District Election Office, Phek dispatching polling materials for General Election at DC & DEO Office Phek on February 25. (For Representational Purpose | DIPR Photo)

‘Dominance of money power is mind-blowing & life-threatening to our future existence’

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | February 25

Even as Nagaland goes to polls on Monday, there is barely any sign of hope that this election would bring ‘change’ for the better. “The dominance of money power in 2023 Nagaland election is mind-blowing and life-threatening to our future existence” as observed by Prof Zuchamo Yanthan, School of Social Sciences, IGNOU, New Delhi.

This type of election, he underlined, “can never be considered a true indicator of democracy.” He also cited concerns about “the integrity level of the leaders, especially the movement from one ideology to another ideology within a short span of time” and recalled that “a decade back, Nagas used to brand BJP as an anti-Christian party but today it is the most sought-after party in the state.”

“What worries me is not the party but the factor which is influencing the candidates to join the party. We have become slaves of money,” he lamented.

If money continues to be the dominant factor in state elections, he pointed out that “it will not allow new capable leadership to come up in the near future” and “Nagas will continue to elect bad leaders who will become more of a liability.”

For a new leadership to emerge, he underscored that “a relentless struggle to combat this corrupt legacy has to be waged” and further pointed out that “this is the challenge ahead of us in building a new leadership in the Naga society.”

Observing that Nagaland today is going through a very critical situation, he emphasized on the need for “efficient leaders who have critical thinking capabilities to analyze the ground realities and also visualize the future.” “This requires a move away from money to harnessing the cooperative spirit of society and the voluntary involvement of the people in developmental processes”, he maintained.

‘Aspiring to be in the ruling dispensation not good for democracy’

With resources and money playing a very important role even in the 2023 elections as observed by Dr Maongsangba, “people are rooting for the ruling party, for a person who is rich enough to fill their pockets.’

This, he pointed out is “a sad reflection of a Christian-dominated state like Nagaland” especially having celebrated 150 years of Christianity only recently. “Thereafter, in this election, we are not able to showcase to the people that we are real followers of Christ. We are heading towards a situation where money will play a very important role in the outcome of election,” he observed.

Naga people, he reiterated, “are going for the ruling party candidate and election is revolving around personality now”. He went on to explain this by saying that, “if someone joins a particular political party, the entire supporters go along with him. We are all aspiring to be in the ruling dispensation and I feel this is not good for democracy.”

The lack of it has also fuelled the need for a ‘strong opposition’ even as he felt that almost every contestant is aspiring to be in the ruling dispensation. “I can see a scenario whereby all the contestants as well as the political parties may like to sit in the treasury bench,” he further articulated. 

In this election, he went on to say, “I can see so many educated, well intentioned candidates, who are rooting for clean election, fighting for people’s rights and to cleanse the system but the fact of the matter is that many of them will be defeated by this so called money power.”

However as compared to previous elections, he also observed that there is fewer number of incidents with the lone exception of killing one innocent person from Chungtia village. “There are instances of stone pelting and clashes, but all in all, as I see it, in earlier elections, electoral clashes were more in various parts of the state,” he put across.  

When it comes to NBCC Clean Election Movement, he affirmed that “clean election and clean candidate are an indispensable part of our system” but given the circumstances, he said that, “I feel like we are heading for disaster again.” In this regard, he also advocated that there should be a consistent effort to educate the people in schools and educational institutions and not only when election is round the corner.

“Clean Election should become a part and parcel of our way of life so that when election comes every five years, people will be more aware and we all know the impact of election system that we have,” he expressed.  

However, at the end of the day, he impressed upon that unless there is a revolution, there is no hope for change. “I think things will not get better. It will go from bad to worse. It’s a very sad commentary on a Christian state like Nagaland”, he said while citing the quality of the roads outside the state as compared to Nagaland roads. “We should collectively hang our heads in shame. We have contributed that so when you contribute something, the result is going to be disastrous”, he put across.

Asserting that everybody is responsible for the state of affairs, he underscored that “the people, the electorate, the government, MLAs, all of us are equally responsible.”

‘Polarisation of politics than ever before…in a vacuum of hope and ideas’

Looking at the trends of Nagaland elections, Conservationist & Veteran Journalist, Bano Haralu observed that “what I am seeing is that there is polarisation of politics than ever before and it does not seem to bode well for us because polarisation is taking place in a vacuum of hope, in a vacuum of ideas.”

Asserting that this polarisation does not mean it will make us stronger, she further expressed that, “that is a scary future and the only change that will be is for the worse.” Elucidating on this point, she illustrated that “the gap between the rich and the richer, between the rich and the poor, will be richer.”

“The foundations of society building, it’s not there. There is no investment in the people, there can be investments in programs, buildings, roads, hospitals, hotels, colleges, you can do all that but where is the investment in people?” she also posed.

Politics and ideology, she said, “are completely absent and the real issues of governance, of institution building, of elevation of poverty, we have not heard from any political party.” She went on to say that “we are allowing ourselves to be interpreted just as the BJP advertisements show us as a dancing people, always merrymaking…it’s a true mirror.”

The bottom line in these elections, she emphasised is that “in a way, it is a spiritual warfare for voting with a conscience.”

Beni Sumer Yanthan (Yanbeni), Nagaland University is very apprehensive about the upcoming polls while citing that “we have already seen violence and bloodshed in so many parts of our state, which is itself symptomatic of some kind of psychological frustration on a grand scale.”

As far as our political processes are concerned, she observed that, “what has become evident over the decades is that our understanding and interpretation of democracy may be very flawed.” However, at the same time, she expressed, “I am defiantly hopeful that we will see some change – whether it is in terms of gender representation, or the arrival of new faces into the assembly.  Naga politics need this coming-of-age transition.”