Post Mortem

How to lose an election after delimitation?

DIMAPUR | Publish Date: 10/7/2020 11:28:13 AM IST

 There are methods, we are told, to win elections! Others will say, means matter most! Meaning, monies and muscles… In politics, shrewdness is consistently valorized as the common denominator. Fortune is a wheel for some. Like how fat one is born. How long the blood line tentacles run? Or, how competition exists. Rarely, especially for developing nations, is election seen as a professional hallmark for leadership and statesmanship, or as a battleground for hope! Worst, the intelligence of the electorates is hardly ever a topic.

Sending money leaders to the Assembly who can barely pronounce a mission of hope exhibits a customized fear for politicians rather than the fact that collective dreams can be realized through the shared power of democracy. Politicians have become our Gods and gods. Public trust on politicians, therefore, is nil. The risk of a society, in such situation, is at its optimum danger. There is no abysmal jeopardy more depressingthan electing a leader we have no faith in—either to speak for us or even to simply speak his thoughts about us. Losing an election will soon come easy for many sitting MLAs—thanks to Delimitation 2020. The 2023 Nagaland Legislative Assembly elections will see the uneventful and hurried retirement of many a seasoned politician. Savvy young ones, too. Some MLAs are already sulking. Dimapur, which stands to gain more seats, will soon become the new gold rush for those who lose their constituencies up there in the hills.

In the first place, seat allocation for various assembly constituencies were never distributed on the basis of tribe or district. Which is why census statistics is vital. Between 1931-41 and 1941-51, two censuses, the then Kohima sub-division experienced a successive negative decadal growth rate, which saw Mokokchung, the other sub-division included in colonial census, overtaking Kohima’s population. In the 1971 Census, which was the delimitation basis for the present assembly seats arrangement, Kohima crossed Mokokchung again. Population fluctuates, accounting fertility, epidemics, migration and war, although census honesty is another issue. Nobody complained.

Likewise, those States who religiously followed the family planning policies stand to have disadvantages—as compared to the prolific population increase in North India. Which is why delimitation to increase seats has been embargoed till 2031 Census. The present delimitation is neither a punishment nor a reward. It also isn’t an attempt to take away entitlements. It is simply insanity to have an Assembly Constituency with 70,000 plus electorates (4-Ghaspani-I) and another which is barely seven thousand (27-Mokokchung Town), for example. In people’s representation, equity matters.

The delimitation exercise will rechart many traditional methods of winning. A fresh bargain will have to be generated. Even the average politician is an expert social engineer. He is the oracle in measuring public mood and gauging individual response. This will be the biggest challenge—once constituencies are redrawn. Honeytraps of politicians is democracy’s greatest folly.

Most politicians, especially one-track-type leaders, have only one fear—the fear of losing public mandate. This insecurity element breeds politicians to become sturdy with intrinsic survival instincts. Politicians, it may appear, are endowed with the gift of manipulation. They can be, indeed, plotters.Decoding how politicians plot is no rocket science. Objecting and resisting manipulation, rather, is the true political science.

Protecting what matters, for a politician, is therefore the key to this power of manipulation. It ensures reelection. Everyone knowsthat human actions are rarely aimed at destroying one’s own interests. Preserving the base precinct requires occasional humoring—like doling cheap goodies and freebies. Or, keeping a vigil on incidental dissenters. Soft diplomacies often yield best results. The inevitable grooming of an Assembly Constituency has seen unprecedented selfishness and enough of corrupt practices. The meaningless rhetoric that—not only the politician but the public too are responsible—can surely undergo radical approach. Politicians are to be solely blamed. Politicians are the ones who accept, even if they don’t initiate nepotism. A leader who is afraid to lose, scared to displease, can never bring change.Leadership is not a rare commodity in public affairs—it is dispensable. There is no room for inefficiency. Audit is free. Either perform, or perish, is what makes electoral democracy most supreme.

Instead of leadership, politics has become a lucrative business, for all. Spending on election has become an investment, which can be easily recovered. Fortunately, perceptions are changing amongst the young. Financial integrity, too, is improving. A time soon shall come when politician forfeit interest in politics because they are not able to recover their election expenditures. From this ash of decadence, endeared leaders will definitely germinate.

Trust deficits persist when hopelessness seeps in. Nobody praises a politician; except those who benefit from the system. Delimitation will be a good opportunity to turn a new page. For many decades, voices have been stifled, in the name of majority politics. And, for good or worse, politics is the most powerful force to bring a difference in human progress or deterioration.

The current delimitation process is a stake for everyone. Villagers must discuss. The more the public discusses—the more the power of public voice will emerge. Slave tales of electoral politics will be exposed. Deceits of number games will be detected.Foundations of leadership will be put into question. The right to vote, which remains the most sacrosanct power in democracy, will illuminate radiance of whoactually has the power to elect.

As a process, delimitation consorts do have public consultations—it is mandatory. The process itself is a part of the method used for delimitation. It is important to express aspirations as well as raise objections. Equally important is to see how politicians or their agents explain the process.

Sitting MLAs and ministers, defeated candidates, or even aspiring candidates will have the best statistical logic in explaining how delimitation must be done.It is everyone for himself. Party solidarity hardly matters here! The arithmetic of the politician will be foregrounded—then the people of the politician will be considered, including village, range, tribe, district, etc. No dynastic power of earth is eternal—hence any futuristic computations to gerrymander delimitation are but vanities. So also, no political party has exclusive rights to decide how delimitation can be done; although naysayers will always subsist that the ruling government influenced the brutal dissection.

Territorial redrawing of assembly seats cannot afford to be the only aim for delimitation exercise—or the sole task of politician and bureaucracy. It has to delimit the equations of how the limits of politics can be realized. Only, then, a new chapter of electoral politicscan call for civil citizenship.

The quality of leadership and the future of our people will improve only when the electorates master the art on how a politician can lose election. To restore the power of the people, only electoral democracy can put such ideals into action. Delimitation is but a mere tool, to protect the emblem of democracy.

Kekhrie Yhome

(Kekhrie Yhome is a professor, politician, and philosopher. Perspectives penned here do not pro-claim the principles of any political party.)

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