The date is 28th November, 2018 and this is the first time I voted in my Home State (Mizoram) Assembly Election. Ever since the insurgent movement ended and we became a state on 20th February, 1987 unlike most of our neighbouring North-Eastern States we are an Island of Peace. Mizoram National Front (MNF) legitimately entered mainstream politics and we experienced peaceful elections ever since then. However, the success of our peaceful democratic elections can be attributed not just to our political groups but the active labouring of our Civil Society groups. Particularly worth mentioning here is our Churches, our largest NGO ‘Young Mizo Association (YMA)’ and our civil society group specially created for elections known as the Mizoram People Forum (MPF).
To elaborate on the important role played by our tailor-made election watchdog MPF, let me begin by mentioning that aside from the Model Code of Conduct released by the Election Commission of India, MPF prepared its own set of ethical guidelines and obtained consent of all political parties.
This special code of conduct created by consent of all parties included a set of Do’ and Don’ts for political parties and their candidates. MPF provides common platform where all political parties can explain their election manifestoes with time for interaction with audience including Q & A session on the model of US Presidential election. In addition, the MPF organised common platform for candidates in different constituencies taking convenience of the candidates. The political party or their candidates contributed for meeting the expenditure for Common Platforms. Invariably such programmes are covered live in the local channels in addition to our local papers for maximum public information.
For prevention of candidates from giving bribe to voters, volunteers from MPF accompany each candidate for door-to-door campaign. MPF also strictly prohibited organisation of feasts which can sway voters. The same is also counted as source of corruption after election. Voters are also repeatedly requested to vote based on their ethical conscience rather than on blind loyalty to a particular party.
On Election Day, the MPF do not allow the political parties to set up office near the polling booths. Instead, The MPF sets up an office to assist the voters by giving them chits to guide voters into their polling booths. Due to this reason, the entire polling booth area and election is not only peaceful but also prevents practice of various unfair means especially impersonation by voters, repeated casting of votes and booth capturing. This system prevented miscreants from hampering a smooth polling process.
This year Mizoram elections faced a major challenge and at the heart of the controversy is a vote-bank that consisted of the Reang tribe. As reports mentioned, the CEO was accused of not heeding to the demand of the NGO forum that Bru refugees staying in Tripura shall cast their votes in the 2018 election as per commitment given by the Election Commission of India in 2014. Second, the CEO requested for deployment of more central forces without consulting the Security Committee that included the DGP, Chief Secretary and Home Secretary without considering financial implication and assessment of requirement of force made by the Police/ Home Department. What was observed as a reaction to this was the coming together of an entire community irrespective of party allegiance. Our Mizo identity was all that was needed to bring the people together. Through appeals made by the organisers that consisted of YMA, Elders’ Association (MUP), Women’s Association (MHIP) and others using electronic and print media, it became a mass movement. Without a single rupee spent all the Mizo people living within and outside Mizoram, including those in different parts of India, Europe and America, rich and poor, irrespective of party affiliation- supported the cause of the NGO and stood up against the injustice meted out to the people by presenting a United Front. The escalation of violence was, thus, averted through a Gandhian coup led by our major NGO’s as it led to the ouster of the CEO who was seen as a thorn that pricked our identity. Subsequently, the polling stations of the Reang tribes were shifted from the Tripura Relief camps to Kanhmun.
As a voter it was quite the experience to just sit back, share a cup of tea with other voters that included both the candidates themselves and those that had come to cast their vote.
Till late afternoon we heard the Local Councils (in Aizawl) and Village Council in other places, requesting every voter to cast their vote. The voters shared a hearty laughter as we enjoyed a hearty snack, shook hands with both strangers and friends and headed home. No election process can vouch to be 100% perfect or ideal. But my experience as a voter was a close 100 and would it be so wrong if I say Mizoram election can serve as role model for a peaceful electoral process in India.
Jennifer V Pachuau