#OPINION | Issues I Feel Parties Need to Address During Election

Partha Prawal

The three-phase 15th Assam assembly election began on Saturday with 264 candidates in the fray contesting in 47 assembly constituencies.

The second and the third phase of the election will be held on April 1 and April 6 respectively and results will be declared on May 2.

Who will come to power? Will it be the BJP that will return to power for the second time or will the Congress be able to sail through riding on its five poll guarantees? Or we will see the emergence of new leaders and witness Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dal (RD) forming the government? All these questions will be answered when the time comes.

People will vote for that party whose “poll promise” they liked the most or whose election manifesto impressed them the most.

Even though most of us do not read the election manifestos, but more or less we are aware of the issues that the political parties have addressed in their respective manifestos.

From several freebies to guaranteed jobs- the parties have addressed various issues and made “promises” galore. However, at this juncture, I have a question- are these the only issues that need to be addressed or did the political parties missed a few other important issues?

The views and perspectives on the manifestos may vary from person-to-person as one may agree or disagree on the issues that the parties have said would work on.

The silence of all the parties on three burning issues has taken me by surprise and this has made me wonder if (at all) the parties and our future leaders are futuristic and visionaries?

The first issue, I strongly feel, should have found a place in one of the manifestoes is the issue of climate change and environmental pollution and what would be their steps towards it if they came to power.

Why I feel climate change could be a strong poll issue as we all are affected by it- irrespective of caste, creed, religion or political affinity.

It is important to know what these parties and our future leaders think about climate change and environmental pollution.

Our leaders speak at summits and conferences and tell about the ways to fight it, then why does it not reflect on their election manifestoes or why is it not made a poll issue?

“There are environmental laws and laws against pollution. But these are being flouted by the authorities themselves,” said Mriganka Das of Fridays For Future, Guwahati.

“These laws, in their current form, are not sufficient enough to save the environment. The laws are not sufficient and they don’t cover everything that is going right now,” he added.

If any political party was serious about fighting environmental pollution, then the first thing, in my opinion, they would have done is that they would have done away with banners and posters- which contribute immensely towards pollution, especially plastic pollution.

If we visit a playground right after a political rally gets over, we will find empty water bottles, polythene bags, banners, posters etc, which are some of the major pollutants.

Can’t the political parties do something regarding this? Or am I expecting too much here?

The second most important issue, which I feel, should have been a poll issue and made its way into the manifestos is about the LGBTQ+ community.

None of the political parties has spoken anything about the LGBTQ+ community and we don’t know what is their stand on the issue.

Even though the Supreme Court of India has decriminalised Section 377 of the IPC, according to which consensual sexual activity between two adults of the same gender isn’t a crime and that people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community have equal rights like others, however, as a society we are yet to accept them.

Even though the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Parliament in 2019, however, we still see that trans people are often mocked even now.

What do our leaders and parties have in store for these people? Why do they don’t speak about them in their election manifestoes? If they can speak and lure other genders, why not them?

“Whoever so comes to power, they should at least consider queer issues if not make it an agenda,” said Guwahati-based LGBTQ+ activist Shivlal Gautam.

“Some leaders and parties say a tokenistic statement at times, however, they don’t get implemented on the ground. While some governments are directly against the community,” he added.

“There should be a state-run shelter home for the community people who don’t have a place to live. As it is not at all in our or anyone’s capacity to run a shelter home all on their own. There are a lot of issues which can be fixed and taken care of only by the government,” he added.

People from the community are voters and their votes count as well and hence I feel the parties must address their issues and my address I do not mean the mere mention in the manifestoes, but proper implementation.

The third issue that I strongly feel should find a space in the election manifestoes is about child rights.

“Children and their rights are mostly ignored by the political parties as they don’t vote and as they don’t vote so their voices are ignored,” said Miguel Das Queah, Executive Director, UTSAH.

“There are a lot of issues surrounding children- starting from child sexual abuse to infant mortality rate and the numbers are only increasing. A different narrative can be created and the political parties must march ahead working and planning on these issues,” he added.

“However, only writing about them in the poll and election manifestos won’t work. These should be implemented on the ground,” he further said.

It may be mentioned here that in November 2020, around 4,000 children from 40 organisations released a manifesto listing their problems so that they are included by political parties in their manifestos for the 2021 assembly elections.

The document was prepared by children from 17 districts, hoping that their issues are heard by the policymakers.

The charter of demands included protection from violence in all forms, access to affordable healthcare and nutritious food, no discrimination based on class, caste, gender, religion or any other ground, and quality and affordable education for all children.

Some of the other demands include adequate resources for improving infrastructure and human resources of educational institutions, safe drinking water and proper sanitation for all families across Assam and safe spaces for children to play, prosper and grow.

The charter also demanded respect for rights of differently-able and active measures to ensure that they are provided with adequate rehabilitative and social support to live a dignified life.

One must remember that children are the future electors and decision-makers, and their opinions and recommendations are also important and political parties must give heed to their demands.

I know, writing these lines at this juncture won’t have an impact on the Assam election 2021, however, I am hopeful that these three issues are looked at closely in future elections.

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