Does a call to boycott elections ever bear fruit in India?

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
There was an unsuccessful attempt by the Naga civil society for a boycott of the February 27, 2018 Assembly elections until a just and negotiated solution to the ongoing peace talks is reached at. The call has fallen flat as 22 candidates from different political parties filed nomination on the last date for filing nominations on February 7. However, even if the boycott threat had fallen through, can New Delhi afford to give in to the demand for a Greater Nagaland?
This time the Chief Executive Member (CEM) of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), Hispreaching Son Shylla has appealed to the people of the region to boycott the 2019 MDC and MP elections if the state government delays in approving the Council’s Inner Line Permit and Lineage Bills.

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) had passed the KHAD (Inner Line as adapted from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873) Regulation Bill, 2018 and KHAD (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (First Amendment) Bill, 2018 last month.
According to him, the approval of the regulation will mean that the provisions of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 for implementation of the ILP system will be applicable within the jurisdiction of the KHADC.
Shylla stressed that District Council was created in order to protect the interest of the Indigenous community; but sadly the Government has always adopted a policy to hold the Bills passed by the Council without citing any reasons. It is for this reason that the bill passed Council continues to linger in the corridors of the Secretariat.
While asserting that the ILP is the best option available to deal with the problem of influx, Shylla stressed that the Council will urge the people to refrain from participating in the upcoming MDC and MP elections if the government fails to advice the Governor on the need to immediately grant assent to these Bills passed by the Council. 
The call to boycott the Right to Franchise time and again has fallen flat, the most recent one as mentioned was in the Naga hills, which has come a long way since it took up arms and fought an Independence war against the Indian Army. That struggle had started as early as 1947. A ceasefire has been on for several decades now, yet a solution to the Naga question has remained elusive.
Considering the backdrop of the Naga problem, regional sentiments are paramount here. Political parties find it difficult to go against public sentiment. This explains why members of 11 political parties, including the BJP and the Congress, went along with the civil society demand for an election boycott, yet it could not bear fruit.
Although this time the Naga people are demanding solution to Naga problem before election, Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) are running a campaign in the state and asking political parties to boycott the election.
This time in the case of KHADC, the demand is for approving the Council’s Inner Line Permit and Lineage Bills, on which Garo Hills Autonomous District Council till date is silent. While there was one meeting with the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council relating to the Lineage Bills, the latter have sought time to study the Bill.
Shylla needs the time to mobilize support, hence, he had sounded the boycott call early, above that, Meghalaya has multiple political parties and it is only on a few issues that all political parties have come under an understanding, in most cases, the unification of the political parties is impossible. Shylla took a big leap in calling all to boycott the upcoming MDC and MP elections, taking the risk for his own political mileage.
When pro - people issues in Nagaland could not withstand the pressure of the Election Commission code of conduct as the announcement of the election date, here in the state, some of the processes of election have started with the selection of the candidates at the District Level for MDC and the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance is looking for the possibilities of having the consensus candidate for Shillong Parliamentary seat to defeat the sitting Congress member- Vincent H Pala, who will be seeking the election for third time. In the case of Tura Parliamentary seat it is still believed will be Agatha Kongkal Sangma of the National People’s Party, who had given up the South Tura Assembly seat for her brother Conrad Kongkal Sangma will be the candidate.
With such activities for the upcoming election, it is a humungous effort for the CEM to garner support to boycott election, and till date be it the call like No Road No Election, or No Water No Election, all have fallen flat in India.


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