Only in Nagaland: State sets example for clean elections, opponents share stage to woo voters in US style

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New Delhi | Updated: February 26, 2018 4:22:39 PM

Nagaland election 2018: A story from Nagaland tells a refreshing tale. 'Clean Election Campaign' started by a students' organisation has brought together candidates on a 'Common Platform' to present their case in front of voters.

nagaland election 2018Nagaland Election 2018: A ‘Common Platform’ event underway. (IE photo)

Nagaland election 2018: At a time when the Election Commission of India appears to be struggling to clean up the election system and check splurge of money by candidates during polls, a story from Nagaland tells a refreshing tale. ‘Clean Election Campaign’ started by a students’ organisation has brought together candidates, irrespective of their party affiliations, on a ‘Common Platform’ to present their case in front of voters.

The “Common Platform” is a US presidential election-like exercise where candidates try to convince voters from a single stage. According to a report by The Indian Express, the idea of “Clean Election Campaign” was first born in 2012 several months before the 2013 Assembly elections in the state. One of the attendees of the meeting in 2012 was Hekani Jakhalu, founder of Youthnet, which is an NGO working with the government for empowering Naga youths.

Jakhalu told IE that the practice of selling and buying votes was rampant in the state. A Youthnet survey had calculated the total amount of amount of money used by candidates for buying and selling votes at Rs 570 crore.

The activists further said that candidates were visiting voters at their doorsteps as it facilitated cash distribution. In a bid to end the practice of distributing money for votes, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council and the Clean Election Campaign passed a resolution, said Jakhalu.

In 2013, the Common Platform was conducted only at a few place and the money then spent by candidates was up to Rs 980 crore, revealed another Youthnet survey.

This year, Common Platform has been conducted at least once in each constituency. The idea of Common Platform has been taken positively by voters as well. “For the first time, we saw all the candidates together, and everyone has a different opinion on who we liked or whose message was the best,” said Nicholas Angami, a voter.

On the pattern of US Presidential debates, speakers are not allowed to interject. The idea has also found takers among politicians but they believe it will take years to see any significant effect.

Mhonlumo Kikon, a BJP MLA from Bhandari and former minister, told IE that the idea of Common Platform should be “encouraged” and “kept”. Kikon said the idea may just sway 3-5 per cent voters in most constituencies today but the real benefits can be seen in future.

The organisers of Common Platform are also documenting promises made by politicians.

Nagaland lacks basic development and infrastructure.

The state will go to polls tomorrow while counting will be done on 3 March 2018.

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