Dissecting healthy turn out of voters
THOUGH the run-up to the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly elections was marred by stray incidents of clashes amongst supporters of rival candidates and opening fire at houses and political camps set up at the locality level, especially in assembly constituencies located in the rural areas, the first phase polling ended on Saturday without any major election-related incidents with a healthy turn-out of 84 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise. The peaceful conduct of the first phase elections in 38 constituencies spread across six districts, including the newly created Kangpokpi and Pherzawl, could be credited to the efforts and elaborate security arrangements made by the Chief Electoral Officer, Manipur as successfully managing such a large-scale democratic exercise is a testimony about the election-conducting authorities leaving no stone unturned to enhance profile and uphold the true essence of Indian democracy. The otherwise commendable job done by the CEO and his team was however not free from some minor cases of voters facing inconveniences owing to malfunctioning of the EVMs in a handful of polling stations and controversy arising out of number of votes cast surpassing the figure of eligible electors mentioned in the electoral rolls. Compared to the issue of EVM developing technical snag, the latter incident of votes cast exceeding the actual number of voters merit proper revision of the polling process as 100 per-cent voting suggests unethical practice. Though CEO Manipur Vivek Kumar Dewangan informed newspersons few hours after the voting process was over that the 84 per-cent turn-out was tentative one, the figure is unlikely to change much. The overall turn out of voters in all the six districts ranging between 80 to 87 per cent also justified various pre-poll activities which the office of CEO in association with different agencies/institutions carried out to create mass awareness of the value of one’s vote and the need to participate in the democracy exercise.
Unlike other bigger and politically important states, Manipur had been witnessing substantial voters’ turn-out in the previous polls too, including in the 2012 elections to the 10th state legislative assembly wherein 79.19 per cent of the electors exercised their franchise. A glance at voting trend in multi-phase assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which political experts believe is a politically sensitive state and results of the assembly polls are considered as precursor to possible outcome of parliamentary elections on account of maximum number of MPs elected from the state, clearly illustrates that the electors are either not eager participants of the democratic exercise or the electoral politics have little impression upon the adult franchisees in UP. Compared to the first phase UP polls recording 64.22 per cent it dipped to a dismal 57 per cent in the fifth phase while the penultimate phase conducted on Saturday was negligibly higher at 57.03 per cent. Taking into account of the high turn-out in Manipur and seemingly unenthusiastic attitude of the UP voters, possibility of the trend of ‘cash for vote’ persisting in Manipur cannot be ruled out, if there is any substance in the rumours that the rate to woo the voters has been increasing with each elections conducted in the economically underdeveloped state. It seems efforts by authorities concerned to maintain the sanctity of Indian elections have not been able to change the concept of both the electors and the contestants that outcome of elections are dependent on how much the crisp currency notes exchange hands.