Putting off polls & deprivation of rights
The accusation made by the former members of the Autonomous District Councils is a very serious matter for it pertains to people’s democratic rights at the grassroots level. The Ex-ADC Members’ Forum, Manipur (EAMFM) has rightly pointed out that keeping the democratic process of election for a protracted period is nothing but deprivation of constitutional and democratic rights of the people. The question of holding the periodic elections in time is not restricted to the ADCs alone. It is equally applicable to all local bodies such as Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats, Gram Panchayats, Zilla Parishads etc. Given the fact that the number of hill districts has grown to 10 and 10 ADCs would be elected this time, there may have been some problems or difficulties in holding the ADC election in time. But two years is a very long time to address all the issues including re-organisation of ADC constituencies. The six ADCs were dissolved after their usual term of five years was extended by six months. After expiry of the extended six months period, the election to the ADCs should have been held in October/November, 2021 but it was deferred on the recommendation of the Hill Areas Committee. The all pervasive COVID-19 pandemic might have been one primary reason for the deferment of the ADC election but the pandemic has now been almost contained. The Chief Minister also went on record stating that the State Government is keen to hold the ADC election and the same election would be held shortly. But no tangible preparation to hold the ADC election could be seen on ground as yet. Is there any authentic ground for further delaying the election to the ADCs? The authorities concerned must hold the much-awaited election within the shortest possible time or come out with a convincing explanation for the inordinate delay otherwise it would not be wrong to assume that the authorities which are responsible for upholding democracy are depriving the hill populace of the very essence of democracy.
Though the ADC election is confined to the hill districts, it has its own significance and implications. For meaningful democracy to reach and thrive at grassroots level, ADC election is a crucial tool and it must be held as soon as possible. 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, or for that matter all local bodies. There is no second opinion to the demand for adequate devolution of powers to elected ADCs so that they can evolve into living institutions. Having said this, the electoral system and the way how elections are fought in this part of the world always remains dubious, and this is not something peculiar to the State of Manipur. The Indian electoral system has a plethora of disadvantages and shortcomings. Utilization of communal allegiances and armed hoodlums, interference and open support given to some favoured candidates/parties by militants, 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, and Manipur does not lag behind any one when it comes to such electoral malpractices. Winning or losing an election all depended on how effectively a candidate could employ all sorts of arm-twisting tactics and how much he/she could 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 and other local body elections but we are just attempting to sensitize the electorates so that only the competent and sincere candidates are elected.