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Monday, May 20, 2024

Arunachal: Trend of getting elected unopposed goes on

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 As the tradition of getting elected unopposed to the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly continues unabated, with the ‘money culture’ playing a key role, a cross-section of society aired diverse opinions regarding elections, the festival of democracy.

Arunachal Pradesh graduated to the trend of sending MLAs to the State Assembly uncontested in 1999 when four of its leaders won the polls unopposed. Since then, the practice has continued. In the 2019 elections, three BJP MLAs were elected unopposed, while in the 2014 polls, 11 Congress candidates, including present Chief Minister Pema Khandu, got elected unopposed. However, most of the MLAs left the Congress to join the BJP and form the BJP government.

One of the intellectuals who wished not to be named said, a ‘healthy’ opposition is important for democracy. Expressing his strong exception over the practice of electing MLAs uncontested, he said, “Therefore, elected unopposed isn’t the ideal situation.”

To curb the ‘money culture’ in elections, he suggested, “One solution could be State funding of elections. That way, even the poor, common citizens could aspire to contest elections.”

Retired Assistant Director of Research Dept. and avid sociologist RN Koley said, if it is, the spirit of adult franchise will be grossly overlooked. Indian electorates are politically mature enough. They deserve the opportunity to cast votes for anybody else or not to cast (NOTA) every five years.

“In the event of an unopposed victory, electorates of unopposed constituencies are grossly deprived of their democratic rights to record their opinion. This is not a healthy sign in a democratic system,” he said.

Describing the practice of unopposed elections as “a mockery of democracy,” Koley suggested the poll body may cancel the election of such candidates and instead re-notify the same. He also recommended the government enact strong legislation in the future in order to check the mockery of democracy.

Former Arunachal Pradesh Industrial Development and Financial Corporation Ltd. (APIDFC) MD Dr. Tony Koyu said, “Unopposed election, although seems to be the quickest and easiest mode of elections, such accomplishments of the election process rather curtail mass participation and the fundamental right to a secret ballot. Under such circumstances, the main players are few, especially the aspirant leaders, and mass voters are unaware of main facts and lose election spirit.”

For a political party in power, such an unopposed election could be appropriate, but it invites lots of corruption too, as they need to deal with and mutually agree with the exchange of huge money, which is again illegal. Besides, it leads to emotion of dictatorial rule, thereby subduing democracy. Sometimes the use of muscle power and money power is employed to influence and convince the counterpart to agree to such an unopposed or uncontested election, he said.

“In a democratic setup, the role of the opposition is not insignificant, as a lot of corrective measures could be seen due to the critical approach of the opposition parties. Opposition-mukt Bharat could become a giant ruling government with all yes-men, which is detrimental for conduct of our Indian Constitution,” Dr. Koyu remarked.

Pointing out both the merits and demerits of unopposed election of candidates, retired Deputy Director of Information and Public Relations Department, Denhang Bosai, said in the case of uncontested elections, it would help prevent wastage of crores of resources on the part of both the candidates and the government, which can be spent on public welfare schemes post-election.

Moreover, there will be fewer chances of the occurrence of poll-related violence and other law-and-order issues in places like the remote Kurung Kumey district, which used to see law-and-order problems during every election, he observed.

Amidst this development, the leaders in the ruling BJP are, however, vocal about their leadership and the pace of development taking place in the state over a period of time.

Senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein said, “This (unopposed election) reflects the trust and confidence placed in the leadership and transformative initiatives undertaken by the Khandu-led governance, paving the way for a brighter future for the people of Arunachal Pradesh.”

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