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Editorial

Elections without convictions

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By EMN Updated: Apr 10, 2014 2:26 am
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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or all the heat and dust raised by the Congress and the Naga People’s Front led DAN government over the solution to the Naga political issue, corruption charges, and the slur on the NPF led DAN alliance for its association with the BJP … the day of polling for most part was lackluster.
A drive around polling stations in the state’s commercial hub in the immediate hours after noon, left many disappointed as the queues seen ranged from scanty to neglible. Yet the polling percentage in Dimapur is believed to have crossed the 70% mark.
What the urban centres failed to achieve was perhaps made up by the electorate in sub urban and rural Nagaland.
The Lok Sabha polls traditionally have always evoked less interest amongst the electorate, but one would have thought with Chief Minister Rio as one of the main candidates, the voters would have displayed more enthusiasm. Overall the votes polled in the state stood at over 84% drawing comments from an Election Commission official as being an impressive record, but completely contradicting the turnout in the urban polling stations.Still, the day by and large passed off peaceful day but was marred by the ugly instance of the forcible denial of voting rights to the 302 electorate under the Ladaigarh polling station under Tamlu sub-division in Longleng district by Assam, following controversy over the area in which the Polling station was established.
The incident brought to centre stage an issue none of the political parties or candidates talked about in the recently concluded elections …the issue of the tenacious and fragile border management between Nagaland and Assam.
Deputy Commissioner of Longleng, Libanthung Lotha said that the Election Commission of India had designated Government Primary School (GPS) Ladaigarh as the Polling Station No. 1 for 302 electorates in the area.
But a sudden road blockade by the Assam police some 1.5 kms before reaching the designated polling station prevented polling officials from Nagaland yesterday transporting election materials, from reaching the area on time, to prepare the polling station for polls this morning.
In this connection, the Commissioner Nagaland and Returning Officer, Temjen Toy has already written a letter addressed to the Election Commission reporting the incident and the adjournment of the exercise.
This incident is another instance indicating the fragile understanding between Assam and Nagaland over its boundary matters. Since the designation of the polling station was under directions of the Election Commission of India, was it necessary for the Assam government to react in the manner they did ? The road blockade denied 302 voters their right to vote.
It will be interesting to see whether the Commission will regard this as a violation of electoral rights. And what punitive measures can be put in place, if at all? What would the former CEC T.N Seshan have done in such a blatant show of force to a neighboring state. The action of the Assam government speaks volumes for the space it attributes to diplomacy and friendliness, two crucial elements required especially to oversee vulnerable border areas by state governments.
The act is already being interpreted both as an insult and offensive by the apex body of tribal bodies the Naga Hoho. In a statement the organization have stated they refuse to remain a ‘mute specator’ to what they term is encroachment from Assam into land which belong to the Phom Nagas.
It has warned the Election Commission of India and Assam government of “adverse consequences” if the issue of the Assam police encroaching into the land of Ladiagarh village under 49 Tamlu assembly constituency in Nagaland is not addressed. They have appealed that the ECI to initiate immediately for peaceful polling at Ladiagarh.
The Hoho also states that elections have been conducted in the said area in the past and that Ladiagarh is within the jurisdiction of Longleng district in the state of Nagaland.
This is yet another incident that can be added to the list of boundary issues that Nagaland and Assam have lately been facing. As recently as last week Dimapur district officials and senior police personnel of Dimapur district have been fire fighting land encroachment issues in the Daldali Forest Reserve in the adjoining Karbi Anglong district.
In recent years, the atmosphere along the Assam and Nagaland borders instead of improving is deteriorating and its time leaders of the two states meet and resolve the issues before the people decide to. If Nagaland were the only state facing a border problem with Assam, which is often regarded as the mother state of the Northeastern states the problem would also lie with Nagaland. But Assam shares a similar problem with Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh as well.
Perhaps this is why it appears, sometimes, that there must be truth in what is oft said about leaders in Assam; that they have never quite got over the fact that the northeastern states have been carved out of what was once the province of Assam.
But the Ladaigarh incident should also be a lesson to the electorate that instead of political parties driving the agendas through their party manifestos, the public too must engage with its leaders to urge them to address issues which have an immediate bearing on their future.
These range from transparent governance to medical care, quality education, water supply, electricity, roads,etc … Elections fought on people’s issues could evoke a very different response, perhaps?

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By EMN Updated: Apr 10, 2014 2:26:18 am