Incidence of vote-buying during elections in Mokokchung – Part 2 | Church leaders speak on how to tackle the problem

With reports of candidates and their agents distributing cash to induce voters in Mokokchung, we asked Church leaders on their take on “cash for vote” and how to tackle it.


According to Rev Prof Dr Mar Pongener, Executive Secretary of ABAM, you get the right to cast your vote as a citizen of India. He says exercising one’s franchise is one of the most important rights of a citizen.


“But as an individual, when you give that up and vote with the influence of cash, you are selling your own rights,” the Reverent asserted, adding that any right-thinking citizen should not sell their rights for cash.


He went on to say that money received for selling one’s vote during elections will get only a brief respite to one’s financial wants. “But at what cost?” he asked. One should not sell off one’s own liberties, the reverend said.


In order to tackle the issue, he observed that a person before the completion of 18 years of age should be made aware of the precious franchise at a young age and should be made aware of its importance.


According to Rev Ponen, Pastor of Mokokchung Town Baptist Church, “A person’s vote should not be sold for money because doing so transfers your right to someone else”.


“And because you have delegated your right to someone else, you have no voice in the fight against corruption and, as a result, you are silenced in your efforts to speak out against lack of development,” the Pastor told Mokokchung Times.


“Furthermore, because we have already taken the money meant for development and progress, we cannot now expect to protest when there is lack of development and progress.”
Speaking on how to tackle the issue, he said, “We must educate the voters. It may take some time to understand, but we must raise awareness about it.”


He also shared his strong belief that the church can do more by speaking out against the ill-effects of selling one’s rights.
“One should be able to speak bravely from the pulpit that such practices are wrong and that we should not practice it.”


Speaking about the problem, Shilula Imchen, Associate Pastor (Women), MTBA, said that this time around, the churches as a whole have put in a lot of effort to sensitize or voice out openly among different sections of the society. “We’ve been praying ardently too. Maybe, more groups besides the church need to join in,” she suggested.


“We’ve spoken to voters; we’ve spoken to the candidates too. What’s left are the people in between who are playing it dirty like a game of gambling. What’s left for the church is to rise up and make prophetic utterances and laments,” Imchen said. “God forbid, that He’d send His wrath upon our people like in the Old Testament times for bringing Him a bad name,” she feared.


Limasunep Imsong, President, Youth Department MTBA, said that cash-for-vote has been a long existing menace in the Nagaland election system and that he strongly opposes it.


Candidates with money power tend to have an unfair advantage over others and the integrity of the election process becomes corrupted, he said.


According to Imsong, the effects on the community due to the evil practice are rise of corruption, bribery and inequalities, poor infrastructures, negative effect on public trust in the government, and it encourages people to vote based on bribery and not on their true beliefs.


In order to tackle the issue, he said that befitting penalties should be awarded to both the candidate and the recipient. “Moreover, the candidate should be debarred from contesting,” he added.


“I think the church has a significant role to play in this issue. Pastors and church leaders along with the different social organizations should join hands to bring reforms to the said issue. Seminars and public rallies should be organized for the sensitization of the general public.”


He went on to say that to stand against cash-for-vote is an act of faith and, therefore, should be encouraged by churches and other faith-based institutions.


(This is the second of a 3-part series)

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