People started talking about the 17th Lok Sabha elections quite early with many political pundits trying to see the mood of the general elections through the outcome of State assembly pollings held last year. The clamour is getting louder as the countdown for the crucial elections has begun with the Election Commission having announced the polling dates, and social media escalating it to the next level. Unlike in the past when people used to talk more about party-switching and other election-related topics in the days leading up to the polling day, much time is spent in front of the mobile phone screen today, reading hordes of information – both genuine and fake – that is being fed by members of social media groups. To ensure that social media platform is not misused, the Election Commission has restricted the political parties and candidates from posting unverified advertisements, photographs of defence personnel, hate speeches and fake news on their accounts, failing which the authorities may take action. Candidates contesting in the Lok Sabha elections are now required to furnish details of their social media accounts like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google at the time of filing nominations so that the authorities can scrutinise their activities in virtual world.
In view of the Lok Sabha polls as well as the by-election to the 26th Aonglenden assembly constituency in Mokokchung district next month, the chief electoral officer of Nagaland has also issued a directive restricting open declaration of support for a particular candidate or political party by communities, villages, khels etc. through public announcement, and that violators of the rule would be slapped with legal action. The directive should be welcomed as such declaration is against the tenets of free and fair election; secret ballot; and individual political rights.
Sectarian politics, which is widely practised in Nagaland, is similar to caste politics that is seen in most Indian states. Caste politics was supposed to be a temporary action-plan to uplift the less-privileged section of the society but it eventually became a tool of political leaders to win elections – even to the extent of instigating one section against another. Indian constitution may have prohibited casteism but caste politics reminds the people whenever there is election that they belong to a certain section of society. Similarly, communities and villages in Nagaland may have initially declared their support for particular candidates to show oneness, but today, it has become a system that not only spoils the spirit of election but also indirectly endorses tribalism. Both caste and tribalism should be annihilated.