There was war of words, high-decibel political bickering, and party-switching between different political parties in Nagaland in the weeks leading up to the first phase of Lok Sabha election that was held on April 11. Polling for the lone Parliamentary seat and by-election to the 26-Aonglenden assembly constituency are over but the lawmakers of the state continue to squabble over proxy voting allegations, an issue that surfaces every election. The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee has lodged a complaint against deputy chief minister Y Patton alleging that he indulged in proxy voting in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, which he denied. Whether or not the minister actually voted more than once is something that the election officials have to unearth, and the fact that there is no repolling in the state squarely put an end to the allegation. But the irony to the whole contention is that proxy voting is not something that happens in the state in isolation; it is rampant. Such unfair practice can be seen almost everywhere during elections, be it Lok Sabha or state assembly, and that too right under the nose of the officials and common people alike. It is an open secret, something that everyone is aware of and it has become somewhat like a voting culture, to the extent that even those who campaigned for clean elections cannot do anything about it on polling day. So, victimising a few by pointing fingers at them won’t help. Rather, the general public, irrespective of lawmakers, civil society leaders, church leaders, and common people should accept the fact that proxy voting is a common practice in the state. Living in denial and resorting to blame game to score political brownie points will not help solve this obvious problem that is against the law of the land.
The constitution of India has granted universal adult suffrage to every adult citizen, ensuring political equality without distinguishing between caste, creed, sex, colour and religion. This voting right is a powerful tool in a democratic set up to elect the representatives of one’s choice to the government. Every citizen of the country is free to vote or not to vote, or choose NOTA. However, a person can vote only once – one person, one vote. The government of India tried to introduce proxy voting facility for Non-Resident Indian (NRIs) but failed to get clearance in the parliament. Currently, proxy voting is available only to army personnel, diplomats and government officials posted outside India. So, voting for one’s family members and relatives, which is common practice in the state, is against the tenet of universal adult franchise guaranteed by the constitution of the country. We will be making a mockery of ourselves if we fight for free and fair elections but at the same time allow proxy voting.