GUWAHATI, April 7 - From calling names to indulging in personal attacks with the motive to insult, the bitter battle for the Assembly elections in the State has seen it all, with the second phase of polls yet to be over. When the battle of ideas gives way to the battle of expletives, voters find themselves being taken for a ride!
Growing awareness among people about their political rights and responsibilities was evident from the whopping voting percentage in the State in the first phase of the elections on April 4. However, equally glaring is the concern from various quarters regarding the deteriorating and demeaning mode of campaigns, suggesting an ideological hollowness.
With raising concern on real issues being relegated to the backburner, several voters and prominent citizens from various walks of lives shared their concern on the issue.
�It cannot get more frustrating for a voter to find their prospective leaders engaging in a degrading battle as pointless as the pictures on social networking sites or personal details like a family feud, etc.,� said women�s rights activist Anurita P Hazarika.
�The candidates, especially those belonging to the political parties, need to be more mature and seasoned. Being a voter of Guwahati, I am not bothered about the personal wardrobe or dressing sense of the candidate. I would rather like them to speak about the road to my house or the streetlights on my bye-lane, if not bigger issues such as law and order and health,� she added.
Toeing the lines of their national and State leadership, who equate each other with the historical traitors and invaders like Badan Borphukan and Mirjumla, several candidates in the fray also resorted to personal attacks like calling a woman candidate a �beauty queen�, implying �just a pretty face�, to explaining the bitter family relationships of another candidate.
According to senior advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, given a choice, the electorate would not choose any of the candidates the political parties at large have fielded.
�It should be a choice of popularity and not unpopularity, where the voters are forced to find out the least unpopular candidate. Political parties must be careful in their choice of candidates,� he added.
However, unless the real issues are highlighted and decency in the campaign is maintained by the candidates, their supporters and the political parties, voters would be repulsive towards the democratic exercise, feels Chandan Goswami, faculty, Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University.
�Pointless bickering emerges from the absence of a clear-cut agenda and indicates the desperation to win. In Guwahati, the voters witness poster campaigns, media bytes, social websites and public rallies with overflowing personal attacks. It is not a healthy sign for a democracy. The conscious voters feel dismayed,� he added.
Also analysing the role of the media in this context, Goswami said that a section of the media might not pass the viewers� litmus test due to their partisan coverage, smacking of their agenda. �When the agenda becomes obvious, the viewers, who are also the voters, can easily find out. Switching loyalties from one camp to another has become palpable this time in the case of the local media in Assam,� he added.
Closely watching the political developments in Assam at the times of polls, Tasaduk Ariful Hussain, State coordinator of Assam Election Watch, suggested that now the voters are better equipped to have a say in the political battle, with the option of NOTA, where the voters can reject all the candidates in the list.
�Maintaining decency in the campaign is the responsibility of the political parties. But when they are indifferent to the issues such as criminal background of the candidates, we cannot expect them to be sensitive about these issues. The abrupt rise in the wealth of many of the candidates is an open secret,� he said, asking people to go for NOTA rather than choosing between �the wrong and the wrong�.