Peaceful is Not Always Fair
Voting in nearly all the polling stations in all the constituencies completed across the state with negligible untoward incidences. There were reported cases of violence in some constituencies with a reported death of one person in Zunheboto district. All in all the polling went on peacefully across the state. However for a state like Nagaland, a peaceful polling process does not always indicate a free and a fair election. The many deliberations; equations; adjustments; handing and taking; and at times open diktats, all done prior to the voting date ensures peaceful polls.
In many villages across the state, the diktats given by the village councils, traditional bodies and also the village chiefs are neither publicised nor known. With the diktat in effect if there are no large number of villagers opposing it, there is no way the rest of the world will learn about it. Cases of violence happens only in those villages where there are opponents who are not willing to abide by such diktats. So many villages in Nagaland still have peaceful polls with no untoward incidences just because those opposed to diktats are few and outnumbered.
In case where diktats are not possible the scenario is that of a plot taken right out of a Hollywood flick on a very dark theme of deceit and two-faced agents. It is reported that the equations and adjustments starts right from the Booth Level Officers(BLO) up to the Presiding Officers. With proper persuasion, which never comes free, the BLOs are forced to ensure that the voter slips of the minorities and the minority communities are withheld. It will either be discarded or used for proxy voting. Last minute negotiations are also held for potential opponents so that they might not disturb the peaceful polls and disrupt the polling process which would be a disadvantage for the candidate who commands the majority in that polling station. Another modus-operandi is of keeping mock polling agents of the candidates, in villages where diktats were issued, as a facade to ensure that observers do not cancel the polling process. However what comes on top it all in deceit is the practice of setting up of moles as polling agents of the opponent candidates. Such polling agents commands high price and are sought after. They ensure that unnecessary objections are not raised when proxy voters of the opponent candidates, who they are in reality supporting from the inside, comes up for voting and also pass crucial information of the votes being cast.
One notable outcome of Tuesday’s polls was the low voting percentage as compared to other times. It will be one of the lowest percentage of votes polled in Nagaland in recent times. It is also the result of the ECI’s constant endeavour to add more polling stations so that the voter limit in the stations are maintained. With the introduction of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines the time consumed per voting cast is also more when compared to earlier non VVPAT electronic voting machines. The safest assumption is that after the genuine electors who are present at the polling stations have voted there is no time left for the usual proxy voting. Nagaland in the current assembly elections probably did not get time for proxy voting in most of the polling stations.
All these cases somehow passes off without detection by the enforcement mechanism that is set up to ensure free and fair polls. The irony is that the many areas where violence was reported are those areas where some people grouped up and decided to fight for their right to vote. The clean election campaign also had its successes this time but the change is yet to be seen in many areas. A change from the public and the electorate itself is needed. So as of now peaceful polls does not always guarantee that it was a free and a fair election.