Shillong, Feb. 1: This time, like every other time, Assembly elections have brought with it speculations, campaigns, posters and tension.
Every means that are meant to ensure an aspirant a chair, are out on the street. But what is missing is the manifesto, the quid pro quo of electoral democracy for people whom those chairs represent. There is just no promise, at least in public domain.
Meghalaya prepares to elect 60 legislators to the ninth Legislative Assembly on February 23, and among the parties, which are in the fray, only the HSPDP has released its manifesto. The major players like the Congress, UDP, and NPP, besides the NCP and the KHNAM, are yet to publicise their much-awaited manifesto though voting will take place three weeks from now.
"It is disheartening to think of an election today, which is devoid of issues and ideologies. In an election, these are vital for both the candidates and the electorate, and in order to make democracy more participatory and effective, debates on issue and ideology should have happened at least a year before the election and enable the citizens to make an informed decision," social activist and church leader Rev. Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh told The Telegraph.
However, he said, this is not happening in Meghalaya, especially in the run-up to the 2013 polls. Except for one party, the electorate are yet to have a glance at the parties' manifestos, leave alone wider public debates, he added.
"Sadly, elections today are no longer the battlefield of issues and ideologies, and as a result, we will have a legislative body and governance, which will be blind to issues which affect the common people," Rev. Pyrtuh said.
KSU president Daniel Khyriem expressed surprise that the electorate was yet to be informed about the manifesto of the other bigger parties. "Perhaps it is a fact that parties no longer take their manifesto seriously."
The student leader said issues relating to land, inter-state boundary conflict, influx, environmental degradation and unemployment, besides a host of others, are the ones confronting the state.
"The new government, which will assume power after the polls, should immediately implement the inner line permit (ILP) system in the state as agreed to last year," he said.
Similarly, Rev. Pyrtuh highlighted land, poverty, inequality, healthcare, education, sports, arts and culture, agriculture, economy, environmental degradation, social security, foreign direct investment and influx as the major issues for Meghalaya.
"Election sans issues and ideologies is no election at all, and it will certainly make way for money or rather people with money power to determine the future of the state and its people."
Saying cash is flowing and the people are mesmerised by tamashas and the hungamas of election, Rev. Pyrtuh expressed apprehension that this election will be held in the context of "corruption".
"Perhaps our polity in the state today is not only complex but the common people are perplexed and signs are visible that post-election period will be chaotic."
Perhaps, an election bereft of the basic information on the parties' plan of action is no election, but a ritual to showcase Indian democracy.