Finally, the third phase of the local level election was held in Province No. 2. The results of the voting are trickling in. Holding the poll in a peaceful manner was in itself a respite for the country. At the same time, the province witnessed quite a few anomalies compared to the other provinces during the hustings.
We saw a bunch of Aaya Rams Gaya Rams (Ram comes, Ram goes) as the poll campaign peaked. The phrase was named after Gaya Lal, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Haryana state of India, who defected thrice in 1967 within a fortnight. It refers to a politician who frequently defects from one party to another by ditching his/her loyalty to a party. Such a politico does not harbour any sense of compunction about the opportunist venture.
The very province was swarmed by many Aaya Rams Gaya Rams till the last moment of the nomination of the candidates. The turncoats quit their parties in no time when they were denied the ticket to contest the poll. No party was free of this malady. The parties were motivated by only one goal – to win the election by hook or by crook. They simply dumped their ideology and integrity.
Another discernible discrepancy was the race to splurge oodles of money in the poll campaign. This anomaly began with the top decision-makers of the parties who preferred the candidates with a fat purse. A committed, hard-working and honest cadre has a slim chance of getting the ticket if s/he lacked the necessary resources to feed cadres and print publicity materials. Sometimes the aspirants have to bribe their bosses. This has made the election a costly affair, turning it into a game of big money.
For example, the mayoral candidates of many cities, including Lahan Municipality and Birgunj metropolis, had indulged in a spending spree as they were businessmen. These guys were lucky enough as they were picked as viable contestants because they had money and muscle power. The rich candidates had reportedly booked hotels and restaurants for their workers throughout the poll campaign.
In the Terai, the silent period is marked by clandestine activities of the candidates. The nights of this period are called ‘the nights of massacre’ because the rich candidates overturn the poll prediction and outcome. Money, rumours and fallacies are circulated to the extent that the voters change their mind overnight. The candidates haggle to buy the neutral poor and uneducated voters. The leaders of the community are bribed to cast votes for the candidates who pay out to the former. The community heads act like a broker. They make a written commitment to guarantee a certain number of votes. If the candidates fail to bag the said number of votes, they claim a refund of the slush fund.
There is another interesting thing that occurs during the silent period. The powerful candidates mobilise their cadres to monitor and protect their electorate so that rival candidates won’t come and buy them. The vigilantes stay awake throughout the night to shoo away the spoilers from the opponent groups. It is bizarre that the voters are treated like a prostitute who is tempted to share a bed with a client who pays her more than the other one.