|A poster along National Highway 29 between Kohima and Dimapur. Telegraph picture
Kohima, March 17: Encouraged by the response to the special voter registration campaign on March 9, the state election commission kept its doors open yesterday for more voters to sign up.
Sources said 2,000 new voters registered their names in the electoral rolls yesterday in Kohima. They said the campaign may be extended to at least another Sunday.
Nagaland chief electoral officer Sentiyanger Ao said efforts were on to create awareness so that more youths turn up to register their names in the electoral rolls.
“I encourage people to come and vote,” Ao said, adding that participating in the democratic process would empower people. He hoped that elections would be conducted in a free and fair manner and appealed to voters to cooperate with the administration.
He said all efforts would be made to check proxy voting. Elections in the past in Nagaland were marred by massive electoral malpractices, including proxy voting and booth capturing. Voter turnout in the past elections, however, was over 90 per cent — the highest in the country, but the state’s youths gradually distanced themselves from politics because of rampant corruption. Several programmes have been conducted in the schools, colleges and university to encourage young people to enrol themselves in the electoral rolls.
Nagaland will go to the polls on April 9 notification for which was issued on March 15. Candidates will file nominations on March 22 while the date for withdrawal of nominations is March 24. Counting will be held on May 16.
Hoardings are being put up in several places in the state to create awareness and to encourage people to enrol themselves in the electoral rolls. There are 11,74,663 voters who will exercise their franchise. There are 2,059 polling stations. To check proxy voting, the election office has decided to issue electoral photo-identity cards to all eligible voters.
“I hope use of cards would detect all bogus and proxy voters in the state,” Ao said.
Till now, village councils decide whom the voters should vote and allowed heads of the family to cast votes for entire family members. The matter was even brought to the notice of the Election Commission as the practices were against the principles of democracy. Even in the last Assembly elections in 2003, this matter was brought to the notice of the commission.
While efforts are on to encourage people to come and exercise their democratic right, there are also debates in society whether democracy has really helped the people.
“Ours is a tainted democracy,” said Katovi Sumi, a post-graduate student of political science.
According to him, democracy in the country has no accountability and this has made many young people frustrated. He said the quality of democracy in China is much better than that in India.
“What is the use of talking of democracy if there is no accountability to the people?” he asked.
Mhalezolie Kire, an associate professor in Kohima College, said democracy is simply the rule of the majority, but in India, the governments have failed to protect the people.
“Our electoral system is always marred by bogus and proxy voting and booth capturing. The Election Commission has become a toothless office,” he said.
“There has to be massive electoral reforms in the country so that we have a viable democracy where all of us can participate,” said Ronny Seyie, an educated unemployed youth. According to him, the present electoral system in the state is a farce.