ADC polls: Democracy at grassroots level

The much delayed election to the Autonomous District Councils or ADC in short would be held sooner rather than later.  The State Cabinet has already directed the State Election Commission to start due preparations for the election. Candidates as well as voters are understandably quite excited. However it is not known yet how many candidates would be fighting for the 144 seats spread across Chandel, Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Senapati and Sadar Hills. Though the election is confined to the five hill districts, it has its own significance and implications. Unlike some other previous ADC elections, there is no objection to the polls from any quarter this time although it has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It may sound too unrealistic, at least in this part of the world yet, we are hoping for a peaceful, free and fair election. For meaningful democracy to reach and thrive at grassroots level, ADC election is a crucial tool. Yes, there are traditional institutions like village chieftainship in the hill districts of Manipur for justice delivery and administration of daily affairs at village level. But these institutions cannot fit the billing and expectations commanded by modern democracy. To take development and tenets of modern democracy to grassroots level, elected local bodies take the central position. Herein lies the importance of Autonomous District Councils and the significance of polls held to elect ADCs. There is no second opinion to the demand for adequate devolution of powers to elected ADCs so that they can evolve into living institutions.
What is dubious is the electoral system and the way how elections are fought in this part of the world. Juxtaposition of democracy and the electoral practices seen in India gives a very awkward picture. The Indian electoral system has a plethora of disadvantages and shortcomings. The inconsistency between the votes registered for a party and the seats conquered in State Assembly or Parliament, the multitude of political parties, personality cult in party system, utilization of communal allegiances and armed hoodlums, excessive employment of muscle and money power, wrongful utilization of governmental machinery, corruptive exercises like booth-capturing, intimidation and impersonation of voters are ubiquitous negative features of Indian electoral system.  The threat of booth occupation has been prevalent from the days of second general election of 1957, particularly in Bihar. The incident slowly and steadily was diffused throughout the country in various kinds and degrees and Manipur is no exception.
The question of popularity or competency seldom figured in the electoral system of India. The fact that almost one-third of the previous and incumbent groups of Indian MPs have multiple criminal records and around half of them are millionaires says something very significant. The whole concept and understanding of republic and democracy needs re-definition in this part of Earth. A closer analysis of the preceding elections indicates that it were the candidates who decided their own fates during elections, not the mass. Winning or losing an election all depended on how many millions a candidate can spend, how effectively he/she can employ all sorts of arm-twisting tactics and how much he/she can hoodwink the mass by means of volumes and volumes of lies, and of course impressive promises which would never see the light of day. This is not intended to undermine the significance of ADC election but we are just attempting to sensitize the electorates so that only the competent and sincere candidates are elected.  Voters too need to evaluate the performances of candidates elected earlier who are seeking re-election as well as merits of fresh candidates without any prejudice and vote conscientiously.