The Election Commission last week removed Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank and Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, a 1987-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer from their respective posts for dereliction of duty and interference in the election process and this has been challenged by the Apex Body of NGOs which continued to protest here for a second day on November 7, 2018 against the axing and are demanding the removal of the CEO in election-bound Mizoram and for Chuaungo to be reinstated.
Chuaungo was accused of creating obstacles in allowing the Reang tribals, sheltered in Tripura for over 21 years, to vote in the November 28 polls to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla in separate letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh strongly opposed the removal of Chuaungo.
It may be mentioned that about 35,000 Reang tribals, taking shelter in Tripura for over 21 years, have demanded setting up of polling stations in refugee camps. Among the refugees, just over 11,000 are eligible to vote in Mizoram.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission called the CEO to discuss the situation, which was said to be returning to normalcy after the Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC) called for state-wide protests for the sacking of CEO S.B. Shashank after Chuaungo was removed on an Election Commission order.
A three-member Election Commission team comprising Jharkhand CEO L. Khiangte, Election Commission Director Nikhil Kumar and Commission Secretary S.B. Joshi arrived here on Tuesday and left Aizawl on Wednesday after meeting leaders of the MNCC, Church bodies, Election officials and civil and police officers to normalise the situation.
The situation has compelled the political observes to ponder if the true essence of Indian Constitution and its execution can be felt just once in five years during Lok Sabha election. Right from the moment after declaration of the poll date, Election Commission of India takes the steering wheel of the nation till the declaration of the result. The poll bound period is the only time the political parties and individuals refer to the Constitutional obligations. Once the popular government is installed, Constitutional Power is being interpreted to either suit the affluent individuals or the government in power.
The election to the 16th Lok Sabha has also witnessed a few exceptional incidents, where the Election Commission has exercised its power preventing people with vested interests to make a mockery of the Indian Constitution. The High Office of Election Commission of India was made glamorous by the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan, in view of his rigid stance to abide by the Constitutional commitment, but he could not muster enough support to get elected to the office of President of India after his retirement as the parliamentarians already had the phobia called T N Seshan. All parliamentarians unanimously agreed to avoid having a President who might be inflexible when it comes to Constitutional duties.
His legacy witnessed yet another beam of hope of upholding the Constitution of India, as the unrelenting Election Commission forced West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to quell her defiance and agree to transfer eight government officials as directed; earlier she refused to do so, and termed it as political vendetta.
Banerjee further said she was accepting the order as a constitutional obligation but asserted that the officers will be reinstated to their original areas after the polls.
Here in Meghalaya, as many as 22 cases have been reported of Polling Personnel including Presiding Officers abstaining from poll duty in Garo Hills. Six of them were produced by police before the Tura Returning Officer as they were designated the crucial duty of Presiding Officer and they had failed both to attend training as well as actual election duty, two of them challenged the official staff of Returning Officer and bluntly said: ‘Do what you can’.
During the District Council election of Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, two of the Presiding Officers were found to be under the influence of alcohol while on duty. Such is the culture in Meghalaya.
Chief Electoral Officer of Meghalaya too was flooded with petitions and complaints from various quarters, including the matter of Paid News. Almost all the complaints were about the resentment of the complainant against the opposition for mud slashing or misuse of government machineries during election campaigning.
More than upholding the Constitutional Rights, such complaints only expose the deteriorating standards of debates by both Ruling government and the Opposition, also the political parties’ conviction to elect qualified representative.
The President, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Raj Shrikant Thackeray in his poll campaigns might have shocked the nation, especially the Poll Committee when he commented over the suicide of farmers in Maharashtra. He appealed to them not to take the extreme step and instead kill those who have done injustice to them. This might sound like a provocative speech, but it is indeed time to make significant change to the system of governance in the country.
Meghalaya campaigning which came to an end on April 7 last, is considered as one of the most peaceful and well conducted processes, irrespective of the result. It is contemplated that all qualified voters have made up their mind in whose favor they would cast their precious vote. Right now it is futile to figure out which candidate(s) had presented the best road map to take Meghalaya ahead, what is most important now is purely dependent of each and every individual on how they want to see Meghalaya in the coming five years, accordingly cast their vote. Like the slogan states ‘Ever Vote Count’, hence, every individual too must exercise their individual franchise by coming out to vote.