Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Preempt Post-Poll Violence, Don’t Instigate It

This election season has been more about whisper campaigns and speculations than actual campaigning; and now that the voting is done and over with, there is a new whisper making the rounds – that of post-poll violence. Hopefully, even this speculation will prove a damp squib like the scale of contest which was projected before the elections – after all, the voter turnout in 2014 was marginally lower than in 2009 when it should have been substantially higher given the billing attached to elections 2014. It is ironic in a way that the election campaign period this time was shorter than the wait for the results after the voting, but that is probably good for Sikkim because in the month-long wait, and the ennui that prevails, a lot of the animosity with which the supporters engaged in the campaigning would have calmed down and many people would have realized the futility of extending political polarization into personal enmities. What this will achieve is that when the results do finally arrive on 16 May, for the supporters it will be more as a relief, irrespective of what the final tally is, than as an instigation.
That said, as mentioned, a sustained campaign is being pushed to suggest that the post-results days will visit violence on Sikkim. Admittedly, given the viciousness with which the campaign was run, makes this a very possibility. And then there is each party which contested the elections swearing by its commitment to peace and alleging that its opponents are hatching conspiracies to deliver post-poll violence on Sikkim. Political parties, Sikkim has learnt by now, cannot be taken seriously on their assurances, claims or allegations, but what is a definite is that the people have never endorsed violence and must surely be scratching their heads in wonder, wondering why parties will need to resort to violence after the people have spoken. It is here that the administration needs to step in and shape up. While it is expected for the administration and the police to be paranoid about such things and stand on over-alert mode, it is wrong and ill-advised for these agencies to join the whispering battalions and their speculations because that pushes people on tenterhooks. But since it will be the people who will be traumatized by any breakdown in the law and order situation, the electorate should take the initiative now. The electorate should confront its present candidates and future leaders and secure a commitment from them [ahead of the counting] that they will hold their peace. Fact remains - and this applies to all camps - that short-sighted sycophants out to earn brownie points with their respective masters could resort to or even finance reprisals to catch attention and prove their allegiance. Dejected candidates, who have the resources and an equally dejected team, but not the wisdom to realize that people need more than just character assassinations to commit support, could also consider violence as the closing theme for their political careers. All this is possible, but not unavoidable.  The right message from the authorities, clear - very clear - instructions from the leaders and a public appeal against violence by the public itself can snuff out violent inclinations wherever they could simmer. Allegations and complaints will not stave off post-poll violence, only commitment to peace, from all levels, will.

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