Election under the shadow of Covid

With election to the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly due in the next couple of months, almost all political parties as well as aspiring candidates have already rolled up their sleeves and activated their election machinery.  As a result, an atmosphere of hectic electioneering has been slowly enveloping the society. Ningol Chakkouba festival is already over but it is still lingering today with many aspiring candidates hosting grand feasts for groups of women and presenting them gifts in the tradition of the beautiful festival. These candidates have been fully exploiting the opportunity brought about by Ningol Chakkouba festival to woo support from the womenfolk. Already there have been several reports of election related gatherings and even violent clashes between political workers of rival candidates in many Assembly segments. Such mass gatherings and violent clashes under the shadow of the Covid pandemic only expose political immaturity on the part of the electorates. It has not been even two months since Manipur breathed a sigh of relief from the daily reports of double digit Covid related dates. No doubt, Covid related fatality has declined considerably these days but the pandemic is far from over. There are reports of tens of thousands of new infections in many European countries and many experts believe this can be the beginning of an all pervading Covid third wave. In another word, it is not yet time to let our guards down. The Government did impose certain restrictions on gathering of people in view of the Covid pandemic but political gatherings take place, no matter whether there are restrictions or not. It is understandable that the political parties and candidates will go all out to win the election but the public need to be always wary of the dreadful pandemic which has already claimed more than 1900 lives in this tiny State. It is no exaggeration that over the years, periodic elections have assumed the character of a grand extended festival in the world’s largest democracy, and Manipur is no exception.
We only expose our political immaturity by celebrating the periodic elections as sponsored festivals and it may prove to be very costly if we don’t follow Covid appropriate behaviour in this time of election. It is indeed a tragedy that in most of the elections held in Manipur, manifesto of a political party, which is supposed to be the most vital aspects, is given least importance. No one take it as seriously as it deserves. Debate over the content of it and review of the previous manifesto which can go a long way in exposing the performance or non-performance of a ruling party are conspicuous by its absence in our society. The end product is the emergence of a heap of lies and lip service as governing political technology on the part of ruling political elites. This technology rests on the foundation of Machiavellian analysis of human nature and character of public as fools, emotional, lacking power of perception and understanding, forgetful in nature etc. Most political parties surgically execute this theory. Having said this, we cannot put the entire blame on citizens or voters alone. Standard and quality of election have become too low to expect any substantive result out of it. We must not forget that casting vote is giving authority to rule over us for five years. But people habitually cannot grasp this opportunity of election for avenging the so-called pseudo-leaders and representatives. It does not matter much to the public whether our so called representatives acted like despots during their previous tenure, whether they violated rule of law, and ruled arbitrarily, and whether there were unruly elected representatives or whether the elected representatives could not tolerate criticisms. We fear how many electorates would take all these into account while exercising their adult franchise? Our people ought to take into account the big issues like AFPSA, underdevelopment, unemployment, curtailment of civil liberty etc while exercising their right to adult franchise. But it is anybody’s guess how many voters would take these major issues into account. Again, we must not forget that a deadly Covid third wave is looming over the horizon.