Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Election done and dusted in Meghalaya


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Elections to the two parliamentary constituencies – Shillong and Tura were over on Friday, April 19 even as the last voting date for other states in the rest of the country would be June 1. Elections are termed as the greatest festival of democracy since there is always an air of expectation that things would change for the better. Whether that change is ultimately for the better is debatable. In fifty plus years of Meghalaya’s statehood there are still many governance challenges to overcome. Even as basic a necessity as water remains out of reach for many residents within the city of Shillong, leave alone the villages, many of them so far flung that providing electricity, water, health and education – the basic needs of any family continue to remain a work in progress.
In Meghalaya, the state assembly election has always been much more exciting and noisy as far as voters are concerned. Polling booths are spaces where people hang out and discuss who is likely to win or lose. There is an air of festivity in the MLA elections perhaps because an MLA is someone a constituent can turn to in times of need. The voting is more personal and there is a fervour in the manner in which people vote. Lok Sabha elections on the contrary are somewhat only remotely connected to constituents who often cannot envisage the bigger picture about the role of an MP in charting out the course that the country takes in the next five years.On March 16 last when the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Rajeev Kumar announced the election dates he also stated that over 97 crore (970 million) people are eligible to vote in the Lok Sabha elections with over 10.5 lakh polling stations manned by 1.5 crore personnel, and 55 lakh EVMs. Of the 97 crore voters, 49.72 crore are men and 47.1 crore women. This itself makes elections a huge exercise requiring trained human resources and reliable electronic voting machines that register the right vote and do not misfire. This time voters were able to see their vote registered for the person they voted for although there is no paper trail for the voter.
In Meghalaya by and large women more than men seem to be enthusiastic voters. In nearly all polling booths in the city of Shillong, more women had lined up as early as 6.30 am. Probably women want to finish off their voting responsibilities before they take on household talks or attend to their respective duties. The queue for men was relatively shorter everywhere. However, in some polling stations in Jaintia Hills male voters had to queue up for over two hours before they could cast their votes. These long queues need to be addressed by the State Election Department as they are deterrents to a smooth voting experience. The die is cast and the results will be out in 45 days. Matrilineal Meghalaya is being keenly watched to see if the two women candidates fielded would carry the day.

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