By Hrishikesh Angom
The recent state assembly election passed off without fulfilling much desires of the electors amidst strict expenditure norms laid by the Election Commission of India. Limited lunch and tea parties have quite upsetted the electors of the state. They could not fully relish their taste buds in the recent assembly election. However, the electors in Panchayat areas will have one more chance to enjoy all those lunch and tea parties as the election to the rural local self-government is approaching. Pan and toffees are common eatables carried by the campaigners in large chunk. They distribute such eatables wherever they go for campaigning. Many candidates are vying in the Panchayat election for the post of Panchayat member, Pradhan and Zilla Parishad member. Hectic campaigns are being made alongside lunch and tea parties in every locality. The election scenario seems to be greater than the assembly election without any restriction in the expenditures. Ironically, the sale of pan and toffees has gone up drastically owing to the ongoing campaigns of Panchayat election. Some people have also become addicted to tobacco with pan and toffees freely available during the campaigns.
The question here is not of pan or toffee, but of a serious matter concerning the democratic setups of our country. Abraham Lincoln had rightly defined “democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. However, democracy takes an ugly look with money and muscle power dominating the election scenario of the state. Even in the election of grassroot local self government, the electors are greatly influenced by money and muscle power. A candidate spends lakhs of rupees in contesting the Panchayat election. Rich and powerful people take keen interests in contesting the elections. They make some sort of investment and make huge profits out of public money. This is evident from the nature of works done under MGNREGS and other schemes for rural development. The Panchayat representatives are no longer concerned about the development of their villages rather than siphoning money out of the development fund. The system of government here in our state right from the grassroot level needs an overhaul not just electing good leaders but also changing the mindsets of the public. They must know that whatever they get from the candidates at the time of election will be recouped from the public fund. The system has to be changed for the future of our democracy.
The time has come for the people of Manipur to bring a change in democracy. The people could not bring much change in the recent state assembly election. But, they can still change the system right from this Panchayat election if they avoid all those lunch and tea parties and vote for the right candidates who would ensure maximum development of rural areas. The state would not see much progress if the people fail to rectify the system of election. They must stand against money and muscle power and should not let the rich and powerful people engulf the democratic institutions of the state. The change is inevitable, pan and toffee will only relish our mouth but not the democracy upon which we have much faith and allegiance.