Friday, March 1, 2024

Topsy turvy politics in Meghalaya  

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That the people of Meghalaya would throw up a fractured verdict is a given. This is normal for a state that has never voted for a political party or ideology but for personalities and largely for rhetoric. If people voted sensibly some of the faces that will be visible in the House this time should not be there at all. They include those who have subverted the system and perpetuated a rule of corruption by engaging in coal mining and transportation despite the NGT ban since April 2014. When people within the government abuse their positions and bend the rules the rule of law too is undermined. People are elected to provide good governance that reaches the last mile but for fifty years those in governance have used the system to multiply their wealth and then used money power to buy the loyalty of voters a fortnight before elections.

To say that elections in Meghalaya are free and fair is to deny the wrongdoings that the candidates have indulged in. Liquor was free flowing  as was evidenced in a video clip that went viral. Women were seen dancing with wads of notes in their hands and rallies were organised by candidates by wooing voters whose daily wages were paid to make merry. After all this pandering to the basest of human instincts and enslaving people by paying them to vote and holding their conscience prisoner, how can the Election Commission expect free and fair elections? Huge swathes of voters are  disempowered and therefore too poor to resist the temptation for money and freebies. This is not to say that all voters are corrupt but large sections are. Where poverty is at a 32.7 % high it is only natural to expect that the poor would not spare any opportunity for earning money without working for it.

It is in this scenario  that the Supreme Court order on March 2, for revamping the electoral system comes as a piece of good news. The apex court has said that a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in parliament and the Chief Justice of India would not select the Chief Election Commissioner and State Election Commissioners. This would bring some autonomy to the Commission and  allow it to be independent of the executive (read the ruling party). It is believed that if the Election Commission of India (ECI) were to have its own secretariat it functions would be more autonomous and also it would be free to make rules that are more stringent to curb the use of money power during elections besides other inducements.

Meanwhile in Meghalaya government formation is awaited even as political parties work out their permutations and combinations. A fractured verdict invariably leads to horse trading and that is becoming evident.

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