Along with Nagaland, Meghalaya will be going to polls on February 27. Thomas Lim of Meghalaya Times, shares some insights:
The last day of campaigning which had end 48 hours before the poll on February 24 evening had witnessed the show of strength by all 374 candidates vying for the 60 seats in the August house.
The Ruling Indian National Congress is trying its best to retain power, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is leaving no stone unturned to make re-entry to the House. The National People’s Party (NPP), catching on the contribution of Garo Hills tallest leader- Late Purno Agitok Sangma wants to unseat the sitting Congress while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had a makeover which its committee claims will increase the seat share in the 10th Session of the Assembly. The newly floated political party – People Democratic Front (PDF) is expected to be the game changer in Meghalaya Politics.
The Regional Parties, namely United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) are still thriving on their respective indigenous ideologies and mandates. This time there are fewer Independent candidates, otherwise, they are the main king-makers when it comes to formation of the government in a hung assembly.
This time, the ‘vote banks’ are said to have been fragmented, mainly due to the entry of the new political parties, and most senior leaders have retired from politics, while others have shifted political parties. There is confusion whether to follow a leader or to remain in the parent party which is one of the main causes of the fragmentation. While there are a few leaders who managed to take along the supporters to the new party, many could not manage and have to work from the grassroots to gainer support.
Like in the past, manifestoes and mandates were never stressed on and this time there is more discussion about the Political rivalries which have dominated the election campaigns and debates.
For the first time in Meghalaya Politics, the state saw the masses seeking copies of Party Manifestoes, which was not at all heard of in the past. The social networks have been attributed for the change, as the demands were first raised through various social sites. The charisma of the individual candidates however is still the prime factors for individual choice, while performance matters the most in the constituency while determining public opinion. This mentality shift for the voters is considered most healthy for the biggest Democracy of the World.
On the last day of campaigning, the trend of votes is said to have changed particularly in Garo Hills, with the elimination of the Self Styled Commander-in-Chief of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Sohan Dalbot Shira by Special Force (SF-10) Commandos. He was the chief of the Military Wing, Ex-cop, who had escaped from police custody after being arrested as an Ex- Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) member. Shira was wanted in several cases of murder, kidnapping, bombings and extortion in Garo Hills, besides the killing of Nationalist Congress Party candidate, Jonathone Sangma on February 18, which had created fear psychosis in poll bound Meghalaya. Also he had terrorized the region for over eight years, this time the votes is expected to be fearless and unbiased.
In Meghalaya, most of the candidates and the political parties have their own vote bank. In many instances, this is based on clan, religion and public support as youth leaders or social activists. Hence, Manifestoes or Mandates were taken for granted as the Public sanction.
Such concepts need to be clearly bifurcated between the social organization or pressure groups with the political outfits, it would be much more healthy even, if the social organizations, (in other case even the armed outfits who claimed to be fighting for the indigenous tribals) , should seek public mandate. Then only will the trend for proper manifestoes be set in all elections to come.
Let this new trend of seeking manifestos be supported and strengthened by all the political parties and individuals seeking the public votes which will surely bring more accountable, transparent and productive democracy, it can be brought to shape with mass participation of voting.
The youth in Meghalaya, (many of them) consider voting as a useless exercises. Actually they should all come out to cast their votes, then only they can change the political system. Remaining indoor is not the solution.
The people of Meghalaya should be grateful for a peaceful state, where Right to Franchise is freely exercised, unlike in a few states where the fear of bullets has kept most of the voters indoor. So Meghalaya should come out in full participation to exercise their rights, and every individual vote counts.