Personal Attacks during election time
By Dr. R.K. Nimai
It is sad that personal attacks on candidates have become a norm during the time of election. This year is the worse in this regard. Only when one is convicted, there is a bar in contesting election. Even a person who is convicted but whose conviction was stayed by a higher court can contest. Many of the candidates in India have criminal records and there was call that such persons should be barred from contesting but on the other hand it was alleged that many of the crimes are foisted on members of the opposition by the ruling dispensation. This is irrespective of which party is in power and this assumption seems not incorrect as majority of the cases do not lead to conviction. In fact many of the cases were allowed to hang in limbo just to ensure that claims can be made that there are cases against the individual. There is no doubt that quite a few are well known gangsters and many of the failures to convict are due to witnesses turning hostile or there are hardly any witnesses.
There is bound to open the character of a candidate and in a sense it is good that on the direction of the Supreme Court, ECI insists that the candidates who intimate that there are cases against him have to publish the details of the cases against him in the newspaper three times. This is to ensure that the voters know the details and take this into consideration while deciding whom to vote. It is the responsibility of the ECI and it seems to have done a decent job. The allegations by his opponents are unfortunately based on presumptions and premises and not necessarily based on facts.
There has been mud-slinging by various leaders of the political parties against the opposition candidates especially on the charges of amassing wealth beyond his known sources on income. In Manipur I should say that majority of those who speak on this issue is also equally, if not more, corrupt. Manipur is a small state and information trickles on who purchases what plot and at what unofficial price. This is the case with either bureaucrats or politicians. Very very few can claim that he has not really amassed wealth beyond his known source of earning. Thus such claims are taken with a pinch of salt and general public feel that none of the candidates are actually contesting with the sole purpose of serving the people. Many are there for mileage and if elected to amass wealth through hook or by crook. In fact, quite a few is contesting to claim as ex-candidate with a view to bid for contract works. One knows who and who had purchased plots say in the Khwairamband area or airport road. There are many beautiful commercial centres plum on the rural area where hardly any customers come but are a sign of ill gotten gain and trying to increase the value of the property. To call a person criminal just because an FIR had been filed are defamatory as in India a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty and if I was the victim I would have filed a defamatory suit and even if it takes a long time the accuser have to one day apologise; thereby destroying his credibility. He has to be called an accused and charges of criminals by even people who had been Ministers is quite unpalatable and indicate the lack of knowledge of law and point to their incompetency.
Quite a few candidates speak about that if elected they will be the spokesperson of the people of the state in the Parliament. This indicates clear lack of understanding of the functioning of the Parliament. Merely being an MP does not make him having full access to speak on any matter on the floor of the House. Time is allocated to each party on any debate based on its strength in the House and the party determines who are to speak and if one speaker takes more time, consequent reduction of time was made on the following speakers. If everyone is allowed to speak there will be turmoil in the House and hardly any business can be transacted. I hope that candidates know what are the duties and function of an MP. People who cannot communicate properly claim that they will present the issues at the national platform. May one ask in what language will he communicate?
I still remember the election just after Manipur attained statehood, where personal attacks were not made and the campaign was on the basis of what will be done. In contrast, now the aim and object of the candidate seem to have been lost in targeting the opponents. The voters have a tough time in judging the better alternative in the rumble. The issue facing the state like CAB, AFSPA, Human right violation by the state, ST demand for Meetei/Meitei, Framework Agreement, Freedom of speech, etc seem to have been lost and the whole exercise of this mudslinging is perhaps to misdirect the real issues facing the state and its people. This strategy seems quite well planned and not an ad hoc approach. In the process many incorrect facts were stated which further confuses the voters. Like Congress lifted Inner line permit in 1950. The fact is Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 was never enforced in Manipur and what Manipur enforces was a Foreigner Tax through a permit on outsider visiting the state in exercise of its sovereign power. AFSPA was passed in the Parliament after a long debate and it would be proper to read the debate where Mr. Rishang Keishing then MP made an impassioned plea against the Bill. This Act is not enforced by the Centre at present but by the State Government. The State Government, whichever is in power can withdraw and see whether the Centre imposes as done in Nagaland. Election is the biggest festival in Manipur and every activist seem to suspend their activities during the election time perhaps to join the festivities. Besides many such activists join the electoral process by being candidates themselves making this category suspect in the eyes of the voters that all his past services was not done with a sense of seeking justice or serving the people but only for preparing the ground work for his election and joining the ruling elite. It is glad that MANPAC continues with their demand and held a NE Convention on their demand recently.
Personal issues may better not be brought out in the debate, such as whether a candidate has more than one wife. It is for the affected party of the bigamy to go through the legal process if he or she is dissatisfied and should not be for a public debate. The private life and the public life may be segregated or the process may deteriorate that none of the candidates will be seen to be clean after the election is over and the loser will be politics per se. Law of slander or defamation is applicable whether one speaks during election time or not and the belief that one can do away with anything during election time is a poor misjudgement of the law. Suspicion is one thing but to positively make allegation against the character of an individual is a little too much to digest. Corruption is ubiquitous in Manipur and this is proved by the palatial houses of the powers-in-be. But has any government taken action? Even the Lok Ayukta is yet to be appointed. Manipur Public Servant Personal Liability Act is not applied uniformly but arbitrarily and the outcome is not very positive. No action has been taken against senior officers whose acts have been reported in the press and for which specific complaints have been made to the authority. Thus people of Manipur are reconciled with the fact that all leaders are corrupt, the only difference is the degree of corruption. The mud-slinging will further fuel this belief.
We can’t expect a better atmosphere as in the national level, the attacks are vitriolic with the PM being called “chowkidar chor hain”; while on the other hands the opposition was called “anti national”. The PM has not opened his mouth on the Rafale deal but ensures that his moppets defended him while on the other narratives anybody who criticises the government is dubbed anti-national. Very sad situation indeed! Even in the US where the debates during the presidential election was of top notch, in the 2016 election there Donald Trump always refers to Hillary Clinton as “crooked Hillary” without realising that he will come to be known as “idiot” so much so that when one googles “idiot’ his photograph comes out. The point here is that personal attacks are double edged and can boomerang. I though, have very serious reservation on people being dubbed anti-national just because he criticises the government as the government cannot be equated with the nation all the times. This is a way to fascism.
While on the issue of election, last week I find a poster of a candidate pasted on my gate. I with great difficulty removed the poster. The jokers who came to paste does not ask for my permission and I thought of complaining to the CEO but I then decided not to cast my vote to him. A person who does not have the capacity to advice the dos and don’ts of a candidate to his followers does not deserve my vote. His chamchas will know who I am talking about and if they come and apologise for their mistake I can reconsider my decision. This should be a warning that if any candidate who defaces walls etc with their posters will lose votes; not only of myself but from my entire family which numbers 16 and our neighbours. If all voters decide on this I hope a much cleaner election without defacing the walls with their poorly printed profiles.
Personal attacks bring the election in disrepute and it would be good to refrain from it. But as things are happening, the opposite can’t be expected and we will be seeing a very vitriolic campaign without anyone coming out untarnished which to reiterate will impact politics as a whole. The saying “hunbu hunnarabadi leitum di wattabani” (if throwing is started there is no dearth of stones) may be remembered as none are totally free from mistakes.
(PS in my last article “Who is afraid of Raga?” in the penultimate Para, please read as “6,000” for “12,000”. The mistake is regretted)
IMPHAL | Jul 19 Decrying the Manipur Services (Revision Pay) Rules, 2019 notified by the government on July 11 and demanding reasonable pay scale, more than 10,000 teachers inclusive of higher secondary lecturers, primary teachers and graduate teachers.....
Matter listed by High Court fails to make it in cause list IMPHAL | Jul 19 A petition filed by Imphal Free Press (IFP) in the High Court of Manipur, pertaining to defamation case filed by the Chief Minister, which was supposed to be listed for heari.....
IMPHAL | Jul 19 Following the mysterious death of a girl student inside the boarding room of Standard Robarth Higher Secondary School, Canchipur, Socialist Students’ Union of Manipur (SSUM) imposed a shutdown on the school, from Saturday. A class 7 .....
IMPHAL | Jul 19 Demanding that the culprits involved in the mysterious death of Ningthoujam Babysana Chanu must be booked, JAC formed against the death along with locals staged a sit-in-protest today at Thangmeiband area opposite THAU ground. Speaki.....
IMPHAL | Jul 19 Khudrakpam Kendra Youths Organisation (KHUKYO) has alleged the officials and authority of Dolaithabi barrage project that it has failed to deliver its promises and that these officials are also avoiding to meet the villagers. Secreta.....