Clean elections

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

The ongoing simultaneous elections in ‘peace loving’ Arunachal Pradesh have been fiercely contested amid reports of violent incidents, arson, assault on government officials, and use of money and muscle power. Bridges have been intentionally dismantled, and helipads have been booby-trapped with bombs to ensure that the re-polling benefits certain candidates.
As per reports, more than Rs 6 crore in cash has been seized along with liquors worth more than Rs 2 crore. As per the election watchdog, the Association for Democratic Reforms, as many as 29 (16%) of the total 184 candidates contesting the assembly elections have criminal cases against them. As per the same report, 131 (71%) of the candidates are crorepatis, with their average assets being Rs 9.86 crore.
As per many reports, most of the candidates along with their parties have spent about Rs 10-20 crore or more during the elections. It is reported that votes are simply being sold to the highest bidders. This year’s elections were based on money power, muscle power and clan politics, which need to be curbed during the next elections.
A model of ‘clean election’ is being followed successfully in Mizoram. Organisations like the Mizo People’s Forum (MPF), supported by the Church, play the role of watchdogs. They issue guidelines on the dos and don’ts and insist on low-key campaigns, and the political parties adhere to them. Local unit members of the MPF must accompany a candidate during campaigning to check possible offers of cash and other allurements, and party workers are not allowed to campaign on behalf of a candidate.
Compared to polls elsewhere else, the Mizoram elections passed off peacefully, without a single incident of violence or disturbance.
Similarly, in our state, the Apatani Youth Association has made candidates sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), promising not to use money or muscle power for votes during the campaign. The MoU strictly stipulates that candidates should not bribe voters with money or any other materials and should not indulge in any activity that may cause hatred or tension. It also prohibits using caste, community or religion for securing votes, setting up camps in villages, campaigning beyond 9 pm, indulging in booth capturing, etc.
A similar model may be implemented during the next elections. A pan-Arunachal, inter-tribe clean elections monitoring and implementation committee should be formed and measures for clean elections strictly enforced, else the candidates should be disqualified. The main points should include bans on the use of money and muscle power, clan/religion politics, use of liquor, door-to-door campaigning, etc. the candidates should be allowed to address voters in community halls, selected rallies, through manifestoes, television, radio, etc.
This type of gross misuse of money and muscle power should be discouraged at all levels. If the candidates use these humongous amounts to win elections, they would be busy recovering the amount and amassing money for the next elections, diverting money meant for development. The huge amount of money saved by clean politics will benefit the politicians and the public and Arunachal. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)