Sinister Poll Designs
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s sudden desperation to have the electoral roll of 2014 made a part of the NRC 1951 update process should not be difficult to appreciate in the context of his electoral imperatives for 2016. He has sent a request to the Union Home Ministry to include the mes in the voters list of 2014 also in the updated NRC of 1951. But before we go on to his motives that do not really need any elucidation at all, it is perhaps important to review the modalities agreed upon for the task of updating the NRC and to see whether anyone is really empowered to change these modalities unilaterally and in an autocratic manner. It will be recalled that the task of updating the NRC was inorditely delayed by none other than the present Chief Minister of Assam. The updating of the NRC that was to have been completed by the year 2007, did not even get started that year. Deadlines kept being postponed and changed, and after the unfortute police firing during the riots that broke out (or were orchestrated) during the commencement of the pilot project at Barpeta Road in 2010, the Assam government was hell-bent on permanently scrapping the NRC updating process. Fortutely, the Supreme Court intervened, and it has kept the Assam government on a leash that keeps getting shorter every day. In between, the government of Assam was instructed to let the Supreme Court know the modalities for updating the NRC and these modalities were eventually accepted by the apex court. And as far as we know, the modalities for updating the NRC did not envisage the inclusion of the voters list of 2014 as part of the updated NRC of 1951. This was as things should have been, because if the electoral roll of 2014 were to be included, there would have been no point in updating the NRC at all. Recently, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had occasion to state that revising the electoral roll of the State was the responsibility of the Election Commission of India, and that he had very little to do with it. This is far from being the correct position. After all, one does not expect the Chief Election Commissioner or the other election commissioners to persolly carry out changes in or additions to the electoral roll of the State. In fact, additions to the existing electoral roll are carried out by block-level officials of the State government. It is, therefore, pointless for the Chief Minister of the State to pretend that he has no hand in the matter at all. The Chief Minister’s desperation in wanting to include the electoral roll of 2014 as part of the updated NRC 1951 can be attributed to two major fears. The first is that without the voters in the updated voters list of 2014, the chances of the Congress coming back to power in 2016 are very slim indeed. The Congress is about to split by September or October this year and this itself is cause for real worry as far as the electoral prospects of the Congress are concerned. With the voters in the electoral roll of 2014 largely wiped out as a result of the updating of the NRC, the chances of Tarun Gogoi leading his party to a fourth consecutive victory may well be written off. The other reason is that a local Assamese daily has discovered how mes of Bangladeshi voters are indiscrimitely added on to the electoral roll with false addresses. For example, house No. 13 of Lamb Road in Guwahati is in the present rightful possession of Ashok Kumar Das, grandson of the late Bholath Das, and his family. By an act of crude forgery, the mes of 11 Bangladeshi voters have been shown against house number 13 of Lamb Road. Closer investigation will reveal many more such instances of fraud in the Chandmari area of the city. Quite obviously, the Election Commission of India had no hand in such a sinister forgery of the electoral roll of 2014. It is, therefore, imperative that the Home Ministry of India should very firmly reject any request for including the electoral roll of 2014 as part of the updated NRC of 1951. This would constitute a clear sabotage of the NRC update work.
The autocratic, arbitrary and unilateral actions relating to the update of the NRC and the inclusion of the mes of Bangladeshi voters in the voters list of 2014 are beginning to prompt very legitimate questions about how Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi regards himself as a political leader. Does he, by any chance, think of himself as the king of the State or a dictator installed in place by the legislature, as Hitler was in Germany? If he takes the pains not to forget that he is no more than an elected leader of the people, he would be less liable to take liberties with the future of the State and the indigenous population of the State. Since he functions as a leader of the people in a democratic structure, his first responsibility is to be a democrat and function like one rather than functioning like the morch of a morchy that no longer exists.
The people of Assam have a sacred duty to ensure that no amount of mischief or pessimism will allow the updating of the NRC to be scuttled or sabotaged at any cost. Apart from filling in the forms for the inclusion of their mes in the NRC, they must frustrate all rumours and mischievous attempts to sabotage the process of updating the NRC. They must realize that in a democracy, what the Chief Minister is trying to do by way of trying to include the voters list of 2014 is not mere sabotage but an act of treason against the people, and therefore the State.