Shillong, Feb. 22: Lip-syncing pre-written rebuttals, taking every opportunistic digs at one another and stuffing “Gandhi” images into pockets have been the backstage preparations of almost every campaigner in the run-up to the February 23 polls.
Though largely accepted as an incurable disease that will eventually cease to exist post elections, the affliction is widespread and influences the steering of votes along a designated route.
Influential one-sided speeches
Every five years (less in terms of Shillong and its famed toppling of governments), nearing elections, the competing political parties target the Meghalaya electorate, attempting to convince them of the known and unknown atrocities that they have been subject to under the previous party’s regime. The community is targeted with the perception that they will be the facilitators to shifting the “balance of power” to a third force in the local political arena. Eventually, the attacker will join hands with this third force to hit back at the believers.
A speech that derogates or casts in a bad light, the rival candidate and his/her party has been the most prominent feature of the campaigns. The flowchart of all different speeches follow the same pattern of highlighting history of self achievement, rebuking the other contender and promising new schemes while standing on the shameful omission of addressing issues that pertain to services and social enhancement.
Roping in prominent figures has now been termed as a “mockery” of facial features! There is no charm left in seeing National leaders, actors and prominent figures land in a territory they know nothing about and establish relations by tying the emotional knot a little too tightly. This is a fact evident from the record “low” turnout of “non-paid” supporters at eventful campaigns.
The rich opportunists
The “opportunist” politicians are surely serious about their “personal” five-year plans of warming the Assembly seat sans overseeing development in the state front. The political style now aims at increasing one’s political influence at almost any price, seizing any opportunity, whenever such opportunities arise. Influence also comes with the practice of abandoning, in reality, some important political principles that were dear when the candidate belonged to another party prior to shifting allegiance.
Like in most parts of India, the major parties have stuck to their trend of choosing their candidates and allotting tickets to only those who are financially sound, with the added benefit of being popular in their local area.
This is evident from the fact that from among the major political parties in the state, the average asset per candidate for Congress’s 60 candidates is Rs 8.07 crore, for UDP (50 candidates) Rs 2.89 crore, for HSPDP (17 candidates) is Rs 1.11 crore, for BJP (13 candidates) is Rs 1.16 crore, for NPP (30 candidates) is Rs 1.03 crore and for NCP (21 candidates) is Rs 63.48 lakh, whereas the average asset per candidate for Independents (124 candidates) is Rs 1.18 crore.
With 113 crorepatis, the course has already been marked. No matter how hard we yank at the strings, the steering remains tilted.
The big monetary hug amidst party jingles
The “rich” or “super rich” candidates have passed major scanners but the fact does not remain hidden that in most of the constituencies it is they who shine as bright at the blocks they possess. The hidden nature of money being passed on in buying confidence of people has been reported in many dailies with a lackadaisical attitude of it being something common.
The fire, which erupted in pockets of Garo hills initially, has now spread to Jaintia hills and West Khasi Hills. It has been reported that the election department in Garo hills has seized illicit liquor, posters, banners and a couple of vehicles but have failed to recover hard cash despite villagers claiming its circulation. Some good news have, no doubt, been made available with some seizure of money being made by the flying squads with the latest being the seizure of Rs 4.5 lakh from a Congress worker at Jakrem in Mawkyrwat, which was supposedly meant to cover the expenses of Rahul Gandhi’s rally. This comes following the earlier big recovery of Rs 13 lakh from a vehicle in Nongstoin.
The “late-leavers” during all campaigns have been presumed to have benefited the most, as this is when congratulatory and assurance handshakes take place, with the notable thing remaining that palms do not meet, thanks to the paper filling spaces.
The gun-point gestures
When money fails, a neck grip works. Subtly threatening voters is an old concept, as now the focus has shifted to giving candidates a direct hint of fear post their victory. Reports of sporadic incidents have sprouted from select regions of the state.
First, we have the security threats faced by NCP candidate from Mahendraganj Mafiara T. Sangma, which prompted NCP state president Sanbor Shullai to request the election department to arrange security for her. The rivalry deepens with him hinting that the delay in providing security could have been because of Sangma contesting against the chief minister’s wife Dikkanchi D. Shira.
The recent attack on HSPDP candidate and veteran political figure Hoping Stone Lyngdoh at the PWD inspection bungalow in Nongstoin has also raised a few eyebrows. The concept of fair elections is long forgotten in the territory demarcated as Meghalaya.
Then that, now this, later what?
Shifting of allegiance has been the other significantly degenerating act that has caught the attention of many. Denial of ticket from one party does not hinder prospects as he/she simply shifts ideologies and commitments and wears the jersey of another. National party contenders now fighting on regional tickets and regional on Independent tickets has just made mockery of the situation we call election of the most deserving. Identity is gradually lost with time.
The end to gimmicks
Though impossible to contain, an attempt can surely be made. Analysts have suggested de-monetising Rs 1,000 currency notes prior to elections together with fine-tuning of the RTI Act. Stern steps of imposing President’s rule three to four months prior to Assembly elections have also been suggested.
Another string of solutions include easing the knots towards the right to negative voting and setting up of fast track courts to settle election-related disputes. Election observers should be more aware of the problems that may remain hidden and, of course, educating voters remain the priority.