Challenges for election authority
DIFFERENT events being organised by the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), under the guidance of the Election Commission of India, to make the people aware of the sanctity of democratic institutions and principles could be construed as determination of the authorities overseeing conduct of Indian elections to cleanse the system of electoral politics. Ever since the ECI announced the dates for holding elections in the five states, the Manipur CEO’s office has been having a hectic schedule, from publishing the electoral rolls to forming various committees for monitoring varied election-related activities. While political parties set the tone of the ensuing assembly election by ceaselessly focusing on passing the buck to the rival organisations, various units of the CEO are making all out efforts to ensure that voters exercise their five-yearly democratic rights in a free and fair manner. From conducting painting/drawing competitions for the students, with the stated objective of maximising the message that all eligible voters should exercise their responsibility in the right manner, to involving the newly enrolled electors in taking the pledge for further enriching the profile of Indian democracy, the CEO and his staffers must be under tremendous pressure to deliver justice regardless of any obstacle that come their way.
Organising events to create awareness that ‘every vote counts’ and empowering the young and future voters, as was the theme for the seventh National Voters’ Day observed throughout the state on January 25, in the form of issuing Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) to newly enrolled voters, EVM demonstration, skit shows and quiz and various other competitions, would relatively be easier tasks, when compared to the responsibility of ensuring free and fair election. It was heartening to note that the fresh voters participated enthusiastically in the National Voters’ Day functions held at the headquarters of all the districts. The observance was marked by heads of district administration stressing on the importance of voting and appealed to all concerned to exercise their franchise in a responsible manner and elect the right people’s representative, who would work for the development of Manipur and its people. As had been the trend for the last many elections, the democratic exercise in the hill areas are not always free and fair as activists of armed organisations are known to intimidate the voters to cast their franchise rights for candidates, which the outfits project or lend support. Apart from threatening the voters, past elections were marred by incidents of gunmen abducting polling personnel as well as a handful of individuals showing up at polling stations and insisting on casting vote for the whole villagers, thus reducing the democratic process to a mockery. In view of operation of numerous armed groups and their dominating presence in the hills, it remains to be seen whether various measures being initiated by the CEO would be able to uphold sanctity of the Indian democracy, particularly in the remote pockets of the hill districts.