Vishü Rita Krocha
The elections are now behind us. Choices have been made and the mandate has also been given. The 2023 Nagaland State General Elections will also go down the history and be remembered as a defining moment for electing the first ever women legislators to the state assembly, carrying with it, the long awaited hopes and aspirations of every Naga woman. From this moment on, even a young girl in a far flung village can dare to dream of securing a place in the state assembly someday, because these two elected women have certainly paved the way and the future of aspiring women politicians does seem a lot more promising.
There are also many new faces that have emerged out of the state assembly elections. Perhaps, this also meant that our people want change, and in that sense, it spelled a ray of hope. That, the elected representatives would, maybe, do things differently. But the system of the electoral process has not, in any way, changed for the better. Or has it? If anything, I think it has only gone from bad to worse.
I remember a time when a certain village raised a politician few decades ago. There was no division, no conflict of interest, but just the common desire to have a leader of their own; somebody to represent them; somebody who understood their needs and aspirations. Then, I did not hear of voters being hungry for money or looking for personal gains. They all stood for him asking nothing in return. They voted him to power expecting no monetary gain whatsoever but for the sheer development of the area.
To the extent that the village community came forward with whatever resources they could manage to part with, whether it was rice, cows, pigs, firewood or vegetables. And I thought how beautiful it is for a village to be united in that manner. It spoke of a people who desired change and is a true testament of how powerful it is when a community comes together for a common good.
Fast forward to the present times, and elections are no longer the way it used to be. Today you hear of all sort of unethical things that are practiced during elections. They say every passing state general elections, the resources spent in each assembly constituency has only increased; so much so that a common man/woman with a committed vision to change the system has definitely no place in it.
A news commentator recently said about the Clean Election Movement that the very fact that such a body has been formed goes on to say that there is rampant corruption during elections. I cannot agree more to this. When talks about elections were abuzz and people were retreating back to their villages in preparation of the elections, I came across a young boy who did not think it was wrong at all to take money from the candidate during the process. After all, he said, “election is the only time you can earn something.”
While the two of us argued about this, with me trying to convince him that it was exactly this kind of mindset that led to “no development” in the state and that the few thousand bucks or whatever amount of money he was getting would do him no good anyway. But he just went on to say that for the rural population, earning even a few thousand rupees meant a big deal.
Looking at the magnitude of how corrupt our elections have become, one can only imagine how much worse it is going to get in the future state assembly elections.
Regrettably, this has become an accepted tradition. That our people right down to the grassroots level—which was once untainted—now vote on the basis of answers to questions such as: What did I gain in the last five years by voting for him? What did he do for me and my family? What job did he provide for me or my loved ones? How much money is he giving me for my one vote this time?
We live in a time when elections only seem to mean personal gains and personal favours. I, me, myself, my family, my everything, but never the society, the people, the common good. And sad to say, at this rate, we are headed nowhere. After all is said and done, we will come back to the same place, disappointed and frustrated over bad roads, shortage of water, power, lack of infrastructure, unemployment and several other issues that we perhaps chose to forget during the electoral process, and only to realize at the end of the day that it was not worth it after all.
So, do we continue to discuss ‘vote for change’ or each one become the change we want to see? Because clearly, talking about it alone has not helped much. It is just so unfortunate that we have misinterpreted politics this way and that is where we have really gone wrong- looking to be individually pleased and lifted, individually assisted and supported, and hardly realising that we always get the government we deserve.
This is a guest editorial by Vishü Rita Krocha. She is the Publisher of PenThrill Publication and a senior journalist based in Kohima.