Sunday, March 20, 2016

Elections or reality shows??

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Silchar MP Susmita Dev during a rally in Silchar. PTI Photo

With the announcement of poll dates in Assam, political activity in Barak Valley has reached feverish pitch. Door to door campaigns, VIP leader visits, press conferences promising the moon to the voters have all begun. Of course, allegations and counter allegations by competing parties and politicians are also an important ingredient of the entire process.  

Elections in the valley are almost like the reality shows on television, which are aired periodically but have no connection whatsoever with the regular lives of the people. Traditionally, the voters of the region have always voted in very high numbers in all polls, either parliamentary, state assembly or municipal. However, the poll results have never resulted in any significant improvement in the lives of the people. Despite the continuous backwardness, the same leaders and their families have won repeatedly which clearly shows that they have never been held accountable for their inefficiency or corruption.

So, the obvious question that comes to mind is what factors do the Barak Valley voters consider while casting their votes. Do they take into consideration the past performance of the leaders or do they take into reckoning their religion, caste etc? A close look at the voting patterns in the valley will reveal that most unfortunately factors such as religion and ethnicity of the candidates are far more important than their past performances.

This tendency immediately gives us answers as to why the valley continues to languish in absolute darkness, even as the leaders make obscene amounts of money and still get away with such corruption and non performance.

The 15 assembly constituencies of Barak Valley have a mixture of broadly three different ethno religious communities – the Bengali Hindus, the Bengali Muslims and the Tea Garden community. Tribals, Manipuris, Bishnupriya Manipuris and Biharis also form substantial populations in certain constituencies. The past results of all constituencies show that the winner generally is from the dominant community from that area even if the candidate from a different community has better credentials.

Hindu majority areas will return Hindu winners, Muslim majority areas will return Muslim winners and those with majority populations of tea garden people, will return winners from their own community. It is very rare that this trend is ever disturbed. Therefore, in all of these constituencies, we have dynasts whose families have dominated the political scene there for generations and yet even basic grass root infrastructure has not been developed.

Generally speaking, Barak Valley is indeed an island of peace. Different communities live together in relative harmony and apart from isolated incidents here and there, communal disturbances are not very common. Yet, during the elections, they succumb to their communal limitations and vote clearly on communal lines.

As a result, elections have become mathematical equations. If you can crack the electoral mathematics of the area, you win or else you lose. So, how will the valley’s voter vote this year? Will it be any different? In all probability, not. The same lot of louts will win and fleece us for another five years. Till that happens, the people will surely enjoy the unfolding of the new season of great electoral reality show!!!     

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Silchar through the Lense