Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Assessing Gross Electoral Violations: Shocking Case Studies from Dimapur’s 2024 Urban Local Body Elections

Keneisedeu Mezhu, Dimapur
 “The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power.”  ~ Wael Ghonim
The Urban Local Bodies elections conducted in Dimapur on June 26th, 2024, have underscored significant issues that demand careful examination and decisive action in public interest. Notably, the elections have brought to light clear violations of electoral regulations by elected public representatives, particularly MLA H Tovihoto Ayemi and MLA Hekani Jakhalu Kense, which contravene established legal frameworks governing electoral conduct. According to Rule 48 of the Nagaland Municipal Election Rules 2023, public servants, including Ministers, MPs, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers, are explicitly prohibited from accessing polling stations, except in their capacity as voters or duly authorized agents. This statutory provision aims to preserve the impartiality and integrity of the electoral process, guarding against undue influence and ensuring equitable participation. However, indisputable video evidence has emerged showing MLA H Tovihoto Ayemi and MLA Hekani Jakhalu Kense accompanied by armed security personnel within polling station premises. Such actions flagrantly violate Model Code of Conduct Rule 7 under the Party in Power subsection (7), which specifies that Ministers of Central or State Governments are barred from entering polling stations or counting venues unless acting strictly as candidates, voters, or authorized representatives. The presence of armed security further exacerbates concerns, potentially intimidating voters and disrupting the orderly conduct of elections.
In Ward 10, MLA Hekani Jakhalu Kense’s actions have exacerbated communal tensions by employing tribal references, addressing constituents/part of the public as “Aos/you Aos”, thereby contravening the Model Code of Conduct’s provisions against fostering communal sentiments. Her purported rationale for visiting the polling station, under the guise of safeguarding constituents within a purported “minority belt” predominantly comprising Kacharis, exacerbates existing divisions. Such conduct undermines electoral principles designed to mitigate inter-community discord and promote inclusive participation. Additionally, the invocation of tribal identity in a manner that appears to sway voters on communal lines is not only unethical but could also be seen as a violation of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which penalizes acts promoting enmity between different groups.
Moreover, the efficacy and impartiality of law enforcement agencies during the electoral process have been called into question. Instances of reported violence, such as the alleged assault of a woman querying/challenging proxy voting (who casted my vote in my absence?) in Ward 20, underscore deficiencies in maintaining public order and safeguarding electoral integrity. Such incidents not only disenfranchise voters but also erode public confidence in democratic institutions and the electoral process itself. Furthermore, these actions may constitute offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including but not limited to Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 171F (undue influence or personation at an election). The failure of law enforcement to effectively address these issues suggests a systemic problem that must be rectified to ensure fair elections in the future.
The discovery of prohibited items, including a catapult and a walkie-talkie, in possession of an unopposed elected NDPP ULB representative, Kiyasetuo Kenguruse, in Ward 2, raises fundamental concerns about candidate adherence to electoral statutes. The presence of such items in proximity to polling stations not only contravenes statutory regulations but also poses potential threats to the orderly conduct of elections and the safety of voters. Possession of such items might also fall under the ambit of Section 188 of the IPC, which deals with disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant. Additionally, instances of public protests and confrontations witnessed in various wards, including displays of banners and cards protesting MLA Hekani Jakhalu Kense’s presence, underscore the volatile atmosphere that pervaded the electoral landscape. Such actions, violating Model Code of Conduct Rule 4 pertaining to polling day procedures, highlight systemic failures in enforcing electoral guidelines and maintaining public order.
The Honourable State Election Commission, State of Nagaland, must take decisive action to address these gross, blatant, naked violations. The blatant disregard for the Model Code of Conduct, various election laws, and sections of the Indian Penal Code by elected public representatives (MLAs), other individuals including an unopposed elected NDPP ULB representative, Kiyasetuo Kenguruse, etc is unacceptable and undermines the democratic process. It is imperative that the Commission investigates these incidents thoroughly and holds the responsible individuals accountable. Immediate steps should be taken to ensure such violations do not recur in future elections. This includes stricter enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct, enhanced monitoring of polling stations and stringent penalties for those found in violation of electoral laws. Furthermore, the involvement of armed security personnel by elected public representatives (during their illegal visits in violation of MCC and other rules/laws) and their use of communal rhetoric necessitate a robust response to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process and maintain public trust. The integrity of the electoral process hinges on the unwavering enforcement of rules and the prompt addressal of any breaches.
In conclusion, the Urban Local Bodies elections in Dimapur on June 26, 2024, have underscored significant lapses in adherence to electoral norms and legal protocols. The blatant disregard for statutory provisions by elected public representatives, coupled with instances of intimidation and violence, poses substantial challenges to democratic governance. Urgent remedial measures are imperative to restore public trust, uphold the sanctity of free and fair elections, and safeguard democratic principles and electoral integrity. Furthermore, these incidents underscore the compelling need for comprehensive electoral reforms aimed at reinforcing adherence to existing legal frameworks. Transparency in candidate conduct and stringent enforcement of electoral codes are indispensable in mitigating electoral malpractices and safeguarding the electorate’s Constitutional liberty and legal right to unfettered participation. The role of law enforcement agencies in ensuring peace and order during electoral processes cannot be overstated, necessitating firm commitment to impartiality and accountability. Upholding these fundamental principles is indispensable in nurturing public confidence in democratic processes and upholding the legitimacy of elected representatives. The State Election Commission’s proactive involvement is crucial to ensuring these standards are met and that the electoral process remains untainted by misconduct and illegal activities. The awakened Public of the State of Nagaland is watching. Public will remember everything. WE DEMAND  JUSTICE FROM STATE ELECTION COMMISSION.