Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Opinion: The implications of Hekani Jakhalu’s ULB election campaign rhetoric

Keneisedeu Mezhu

“Manipulating, Threatening, Coercing Voters is not just a crime; it is a deliberate betrayal of constitutional values and democratic process”
Nagaland will conduct the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections in 3 Municipal Councils and 36 Town Councils on June 26. This will be the first-ever municipal election in the State with a 33% reservation for women, marking a significant step towards gender inclusivity in local governance. However, the election campaigns have already sparked controversy, particularly the speeches delivered by Hekani Jakhalu Kense, a Member of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. These campaigns have illuminated the current state of Nagaland politics and its trajectory, raising critical concerns about the nature of political discourse and the health of democratic processes in the State.
Jakhalu’s speeches (which have been heavily viraled in social media) have displayed a tone of authority and manipulation, potentially polarizing the electorate. Her assertion, “Moi Dimapur 3 lah MLA ase etu karne I am saying it in Public – there is no space for non-NDPP Members taikhan bhi hoi member toh ase hoilebi that’s politics”, exemplifies favoritism and a lack of civility. The persistent emphasis on “Jagah nai” (there’s no space) for non-NDPP candidates, in an election overseen by the State Election Commission under Article 243 ZA, reveals a combative stance and a misunderstanding of legal boundaries-no MLA has the authority to decide electoral participation.
Furthermore, Jakhalu’s directive, “Government ko teh jai ase, Party kon tu Government teh jai ase tateh hi jai kene vote mari dibi”, urging voters to support the ruling NDPP-BJP alliance, contradicts Article 326, which guarantees adult suffrage without political coercion. Her rhetoric potentially violates Sections 123 (3) and 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which prohibit promoting enmity between classes in connection with elections. Also, the statement is likely to attract provisions under Section 171C of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Hence, deserve attention and suitable legal action from the office of Hon’ble Chief Election Commissioner, State of Nagaland.
Jakhalu’s claim, “….ami clarify kuri ase Jagah nai Jagah nai, etu social event nohoi toh, etu charity lagah kaam nohoi etu Politics ase,aru ami politics kheli ase – ek saath kheli thaki kene eman dhuk para alag alag kheli kena hari kene jiti kene aru ek sath buhi thakibo? Etu politics nohoi toh etu karne ami laga Ward 8 khan ke koi ase alag alag ticket para bhi jai ase, taikhan karne mistake para hoilebi by chance para hoilebi jitishey koilebi sorry taikhan karne jagah nai, amikhan laga NDPP Government party para council toh form kuribo, etia already majority punchi bole ase, dusra teh bhi position bishi bhal ase, ami khan hi kuribo dusra khan toh morom lagilebi politics ase, ami koishey charity nohoi, bahar teh hi thakibo lagibo. Opposition teh hi thakibo lage taikhan”, another statement at Ward 3 “Serious para bhabibo lage, Ruling Government kon ase? NDPP ase. Kon kon ahishey koilebi aage teh bhi koishey but this is an important point I want to stress… kon jitibi na jitibi etu toh it does not matter at all, rule toh kon kuribo, NDPP kuribo because Dimapur 3 teh toh NDPP hi jitibo etu karne alliance bi hoijabo la kotha bi nai, eku alliance nai it’s a fair fight…..” highlights a concerning view of political exclusivity. Her statements oscillate between dismissing opposition involvement and promoting her party’s dominance, creating a confusing narrative for voters. This approach undermines the democratic principle of fair competition and could potentially influence voters through coercion, intimidation, or threat. Hence, the statement/s deserves to be thoroughly examined in the light of Section 171 C of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which addresses undue influence at elections. Such statements warrant attention and suitable legal action from the office of the Hon’ble State Election Commissioner, State of Nagaland, to ensure that the integrity of the electoral process is maintained and that all candidates are provided with a fair opportunity to contest. It is imperative that democratic norms are upheld and that electoral campaigns are conducted within the boundaries of legality and ethical conduct. By taking appropriate measures, we can protect the sanctity of our democratic institutions and processes.
The people of Nagaland are increasingly aware of their legal and constitutional rights and they can no longer be easily fooled by the political elites in the State. The rise of an intellectual middle class is gradually providing the necessary intellectual direction to the masses, empowering them to challenge unjust practices and demand accountability from their leaders. This shift signifies a growing political maturity and a more informed electorate capable of discerning true public interest from partisan manipulation.
The underlying theme of Hekani Jakhalu’s speeches emphasises ‘teamwork’ yet simultaneously rejects the inclusion of opponents in her ‘team’. This contradictory stance suggests a narrow vision for leadership and governance. Jakhalu’s declaration, “Dimapur 3 laga affair ase I’ll be involved, very very heavily involved both in the campaign and even after winning I’ll be part of everything”, asserts an overwhelming control over local governance, which raises concerns about democratic representation and inclusive governance.
The implications of such rhetoric extend beyond immediate election results, potentially fostering a political environment where dissent is stifled and democratic processes are undermined. It is essential for leaders to encourage healthy debate and respect for differing opinions to strengthen the democratic fabric of our society. The ability to accommodate diverse viewpoints and foster an inclusive political climate is a hallmark of mature and effective governance.
Urban Local Bodies are pivotal in managing essential services and infrastructure, directly impacting citizens’ daily lives. They are at the heart of democratic representation, addressing community needs and fostering development. Jakhalu’s speeches, however, appear to prioritize the interests of the ruling party over the welfare of the people. Constructive criticism and diverse perspectives are vital for achieving public welfare goals. A single-minded approach to governance stifles this necessary dialogue.
It is essential to recall that the Indian Constitution exists to limit governmental power and ensure democratic integrity. Jakhalu’s campaign rhetoric, with its undertone of polarization and authoritarianism, poses a risk to these constitutional values. As citizens, we must remain vigilant and demand that our elected representatives prioritize public welfare over partisan interests.
In conclusion, the trajectory of political discourse as demonstrated in these campaign speeches raises critical questions about the future of Nagaland’s democracy. As the electorate, it is our duty to hold our leaders accountable and ensure that the principles of fairness, inclusivity and constitutional adherence are upheld. The health of our democracy depends on the active engagement and scrutiny of its citizens, ensuring that power is exercised responsibly and for the collective good. A vigilant and informed electorate is the best safeguard against the erosion of democratic norms and values. Our collective vigilance will determine the strength and resilience of our democratic institutions. Let us stand united in our commitment to democracy, fostering a future where every voice is heard and every citizen is valued. Together, we can build a more just and equitable society, guided by the principles of truth, justice, and equality.

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