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Manipur 2022: YCM documents 46 cases of pre-poll violent incidents  

File Photo: A man brandishing a gun during a poll related violence at Yairipok Yambem recently

YCM says the pre-poll environment in marked by unprecedented poll violence and hopes for a genuine, free, and fair expression of people’s will in this election

TFM Desk

People’s Election Monitoring team of Youth Collective Manipur (YCM) has shared its preliminary findings to all relevant stakeholders on the election environment leading up to Manipur-2022-Election. Notwithstanding the significant features ECI introduced, the pre-election phase is marked by unprecedented violence and use of muscle and money power, said YCM.

In a release, Thongam Zingo, Coordinator, People’s Election Monitoring said that over and above the election officials, political parties, candidates and their workers; the media and some civil society groups are also intensely engaged in the electoral processes. The main source of information for the public about plans and preparedness for the polls are the media briefings of the election officials. This election is witnessing some new features including measures for conducting elections during Covid-19 pandemic.

The c-VIGIL app, which is designed to empower the citizens to easily lodge complaints on violation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC), if functions effectively will contribute toward free and fair election. For the first time, there will be 5 all women officials’ polling stations (16.4% polling stations), and extending postal ballots to electors categories of 80+ age, Persons with Disabilities and Covid-19 patients. An interesting development is granting of voting rights to militants currently under Suspension of Operation and Memorandum of Understanding arrangements with the Government of India. It is also important to ensure exercise of voting rights for electors residing outside the state, said the release.

YCM’s assessment found out that the main highlight of Manipur-2022-Election is the escalating poll related violent incidents. YCM has documented 46 violent incidents including 4 deaths, 10 bomb blasts, 15 gun-violence, and 19 ransacking of properties and others. Such naked violence over shadowed other forms of poll violence. The open intimidation of armed ethnic militant groups forcing members of its ethnic community to vote for one particular political party is a matter of grave concern. Most stakeholders interviewed expressed the possibility of violent incidents continuing even in the post-election period.

High number of candidates with criminal records is yet another concern. Interestingly, most candidates with criminal backgrounds are documented crorepati. Out of 53 candidates with criminal backgrounds 31 are crorepati (58%). Poll violence seems to be closely linked to muscle and money power, as constituencies with more than one candidate with muscle and money power have seen more violent incidents.

Flow of large sums of money, drugs and liquor during the campaign period has been an evident part of this election. Details of seizures, made by officials released by ECI till 25 February, revealed shocking facts. Total value of Rs 167.83 crore was seized by officials including drugs (143.47 cr), precious metal (12.17 cr), cash (4.17 cr) and liquor (0.65 cr). Not only are these figures fearful but it also supports the general perception of extensive use of money power. The total value of seized items so far in this election is already more than 26 times higher than total value seized in the 2017 Manipur election, which was Rs 6.42 crore, said the release.             

Even though no vote buying is reported with evidence, the voters are quite certain that it is already taking place widely, that too at a much higher rate than in the previous elections. The campaign expenditure of almost all candidates is believed to be far exceeding the ceiling of 28 lakhs rupees imposed by ECI. The question of false information submitted in the affidavit by candidates, which has passed scrutiny, is also a matter of concern.

Voter education on electoral information largely remains poor. Majority of the voters are aware of neither the facilities provided by election officials nor the details of candidates’ background. The same is true for MCC or other related regulations.

There are a total of 265 candidates contesting from 60 Assembly Constituencies, 173 and 92 in phase I and II respectively. Among these candidates, the total number of women candidates is 17, which is almost negligible. This is shocking as it reflects the continuing male dominance in formal politics. Meira Paibi even commented that in the period leading to the elections, discussion programs in media conducted on various electoral issues hardly had any woman panelist, added the release.

On the issue of media freedom and neutrality, no major incident of undue media restrictions in the pre-election period is reported. However, stakeholders opined that there is a need to have a closer look to the issue, as there is a speculation of growing bond of selected media groups with the power that be.

It has been observed that there are only a few CSOs actively working to ensure genuine, free and fair expression of will of the people. Other than media, officials’ election observers (general, police and expenditure) and YCM’s People’s Election Monitoring Team, there are no groups conducting formal monitoring. To have an environment in which CSOs effectively perform their role by participating in the electoral process, it is important that concerned officials and stakeholders address the issue of CSOs abstaining from the election process despite their active involvement in other socio-political issues of the masses.

Our election monitoring team will continue to closely watch Manipur-2022-Election through the poll dates and period after the election. We will include details of our findings in the report that will be released after the counting and announcement of election results. YCM is hoping for a genuine, free, and fair expression of people’s will in this election as well as to continue efforts to ensure it in the future, said the release.




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