Monday, May 12, 2014

Before the Results Arrive

The people’s verdict on the government of the last five years and the prospects for the next five will be made public before this week runs out. The Electronic Voting Machines, for all their teething problems, have not only made voting more convenient, but have also made the tabulation of the votes much less tedious and the declaration of results phenomenally quicker. Manual counting which would earlier stretch from late into the night to the wee hours of the next morning is now a thing of the past and the only time-consuming factor of the counting process now is the official recording of the results on paper. As for the rest, how quickly Sikkim gets the verdict on Friday will depend on how fast the officials responsible for counting can unseal the EVMs and how fast they can use the calculators to tabulate the records stored in the EVMs.
This is good. One fear that has returned to Sikkim with the polls is that of post-poll violence. Such violence, like any reaction, is of two types – spontaneous and planned. The faster counting assures that the first reaction, except when it is of jubilation, will not happen. Because the results will be announced before dark, and also now that the district and police administrations have been devising stronger deterrents and better preparation, they would leave those instigating such admonition with the risk of getting identified too easily. The Sikkimese society still has that decorum which does not allow in-your-face aggression [seen in how vehicles are torched after dark and violence mostly indulged in at least from a stone’s throw away making identification difficult]. As for planned rampages, the cops will have no excuses for allowing these given that the results will come early enough in the day, making projections of possible troublespots and proper reinforcements possible. The last two Assembly election results were received without backlash because the winning party took all. Violence invariably happens when verdicts from some constituencies leave the winning faction disappointed and angry. Given that we have secret ballot in the country, the results announcement will undoubtedly deliver surprises; and since the campaigning did see some vicious violence, there is a clear chance that some sections will not receive the surprises too well. Such reactions are expected, but what should be unacceptable is for the losers to blame anyone but themselves for what the EVMs reveal. And this message needs to conveyed clearly to all from all sides to ensure that the disappointments don’t manifest in violence.
Whoever forms the government today should realise that there should be no administrative consent for vengeance. Even if one were to ignore the ethics and morality of this stand, it does not bode well for a government to sponsor anarchy. There will be enough troubles hitting Sikkim in the next five years to actually manufacture one at the threshold of a new term itself. Irrespective of the verdict, the first week of the Ninth Legislative Assembly of Sikkim will set the tone for the next five years. While those in power will do what they have to, there is also need to demand that those in the Opposition start delivering what is expected of it. While Sikkim has enjoyed the democratic liberty of electing its representatives since 1979, it has not yet experienced the power of the Opposition save in a flicker when Pawan Chamling was an Opposition member for a while and more recently when the noise generated by SKM gave Opposition some teeth in engaging the government. Unfortunately, those elected into the Opposition in Sikkim [except Acharya Tsering Lama in 2004-09] have been less than impressive [Chamling and Golay were both won as part of parties which formed the governments]. May be if Sikkim developed the habit of also elected Opposition representation, it would not have to worry about post-poll violence any more.

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