[ Amar Sangno ]
Arunachal Pradesh requires a term of its own to define adult franchise and democracy as seen during elections in the state. The election fervour here is so profound and far-reaching it engages people from all walks of life, be it school-going children or bedridden octoge-narians, or professionals, house-wives and jobless men. Irrespective of class, religion and community, all are drenched in this most extravagant festival of democracy.
In the areas inhabited by Abotani clans, approximately over one thousand mithuns (Bos frontalis) were sacrificed just after the elections were declared this year. People sacrificed mithuns during mere review meetings in the villages, just to solemnize their loyalty to the candidates. It’s a wonder that it has not caught the attention of the PETA.
This year’s elections were also perhaps the bloodiest that the people of the state ever witnessed. Three persons were murdered in separate incidents of poll-related violence since the time the elections were declared. Hundreds were injured across the state in skirmishes at different polling stations. Roads were deliberately blocked and bridges were damaged or snapped by party workers just to gain undue advantage. Is this the way we define our democratic electoral process?
It is said that violence has no place in a democracy, but in Arunachal violence is one of the key components in determining many candidates’ winnability. The lack of a specific clause on candidacy disqualification on the ground of poll offence in the Election Commission of India’s manual emboldens the candidates and their workers to resort to violence as it helps in winning elections.
A former bureaucrat who had served in Arunachal opined that candidates who encourage violence and booth capturing should be debarred from contesting elections for committing poll offences.
“The candidates who indulge in poll offences, including booth capturing and criminal intimidation, should be debarred from contesting any election,” he said.
An unverified video footage on the social media of 12-year-old children flashing their fingers marked with indelible ink and saying that they cast votes is a manifestation of the tribal way of exercising adult franchise.
Blatant abuse of adult franchise and democracy is practiced everywhere in the remote polling stations; nonetheless, the polling officers often go mute, even if a kid stands in the queue to cast their vote. Our parents wittingly push their kids into legal entanglement, since they know that once a kid has cast their, they are legally no longer a minor. People also vote on the basis of their candidates’ clan, and on the basis of matrimonial relations.
The recent elections in Arunachal Pradesh were perhaps one of the most scandalous. The total amount of money seized by flying squad teams and static surveillance teams across the state is, roughly, Rs 7,26,93,550, the election expenditure monitoring official and the state nodal officer (police) informed.
Among the districts, East Siang topped the list with Rs 20,54,7200, followed by Capital Complex with Rs 85,50,150.
If we went by the identities on the seizure lists and which parties they are affiliated with, it would reveal that no political party in Arunachal is clean, and neither are the voters. In other words, corruption begins right from the threshold of the electioneering process, and it runs in every candidate and voter’s veins.
By a rough estimate, each candidate must have spent Rs 10 crore during this year’s elections, thereby putting the total expenditure of the 181 candidates in the 60 assembly constituencies at roughly Rs 1,8,181 crore (or one-third of the state’s budget). In such circumstances, how would development take place?
Interestingly, state BJP vice president-cum-spokesman, Dominic Tadar, on Thursday claimed that the party did not woo the voters through money power but through good governance and leadership. Thanks to the other political parties’ spokesp-ersons for preferring to remain silent, because it’s an open secret that the chief question that the voters ask without hesitation, at least in Nyishi villages, is: Voter tangka hgla/huglo (Where is the voters’ money)?
The American band, Guns and Roses, once released an album with an ironic title. It was called Chinese Democracy. It doesn’t take a long stretch of the imagination to apply the same phrase to the kind of democracy we are witnessing in our state. We are using the idea of democracy to subvert the tenets of democracy itself.