Sunday, July 25, 2021

Perceptible patterns

There have been perceptible patterns on the eves of every Nagaland Assembly elections since the last eighteen years and about three-and-a-half months. These patterns took firmer shape on the eve of the 2003 State Assembly elections, which saw the emergence of regional parties obtaining and retaining power by whatever means for over eighteen years now ~ despite the State Congress winning maximum seats. Similar patterns emerged in the 2018 elections too, which saw the NPF winning maximum seats. The 2003 elections proved to be quite a watershed moment because it provided the ‘inspiration’/’blueprint’ to backseat the Congress in quite a number of Northeastern States, which was its stronghold till then ~ thus change the political equations and the electoral map of this region. Obviously the BJP learnt a lot from the Nagaland electoral scenario and actually put into practice the well-learnt lessons since 2014. Now, considering that there are less than 20 months to the next Assembly elections ~ if elections are held sometime in February 2023 ~ we are practically on the eve of another ‘dance of democracy’. Twenty months, or a year-and-eight months, are not too early to start gathering firewood to start the fire to boil water to make tea. But what are these patterns? They are very well-thought strategies to forefront emotional issues as the main electoral plank ~ and on this aspect, nothing tops the Naga political issue. So, right from 2003, our political parties and politicos have labouriously fore-fronted various aspects of the Naga political issue, which effectively disadvantaged discussions, discourses and debates on issues of human lives, development, environment, employment, corruption, mis-governance, etc. After all, who wants to incur wraths? Moreover, on an all-Nagaland scenario, issues of tribes/communities and religion are cut and dried and do not gain any traction as an election plank ~ nor do environment, women and gender issues, etc. All political parties here, even the BJP, have discovered how very convenient the Naga political issue is, especially on election eves and have made the most of it. The recent constitution of the Core Committee on Naga Political Issue, comprising of some elected representatives of all political parties, seems to suggest that. Were there any differences amongst our political parties on the aforesaid issue ~ except the use of different words and a few strategies here and there? Taking oath on the Constitution of India, these representatives can only say the same things, no? And, they walk on the same slippery slopes vis-à-vis our political groups, no? Moreover, almost everything has been said in almost a century, especially since the almost last quarter of a century, no? And, in whatever is being parleyed now, our political parties are not even included. So, what actually is the objective of this Core Committee and what does it hope to achieve, when the stands of the negotiating parties are unambiguous? That this Core Committee consists of some elected representatives of all political parties also seems to suggest an investment in ‘strength in unity’ in regards to ‘relations’ with the Government of India, the Naga political groups and on the electoral trail. The recent formation of the Core Committee can also be seen as a clever ploy of all political parties here to checkmate each other ~ since quite a good number of our elected and unelected politicos have been card-carrying members of almost every other party, everyone knows how everyone’s minds work. This Core Committee can also be seen as keeping the door slightly ajar for pre and post electoral alignments and re-alignments. So, that’s one aspect of the ‘dance of democracy’. Now, what about the electorate? What are our thoughts on the next Assembly elections? What issues do we want fore-fronted and how do we ensure that the issues dearest to our hearts are fore-fronted and not commandeered by clever ploys and chicanery and waylaid by money, muscle power, promises and lies? Living through these pandemic times, surely our eyes must have opened and something stirred deep within us? Surely, these pandemic times have brought us face-to-face with our reality of deceptions, denials, deprivations, disparities and discriminations? Whether the pandemic ends soon or continues for some more years, would we still remain tigers and leopards whose stripes and spots do not change? In about twenty months’ times, will we make our voice heard or will we allow it to be silenced once again? In 2023, will we change our patterns or would it be yesterday once more?