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Fri, 17 Aug 2018

Northeast Today

Battle for Meghalaya

Battle for Meghalaya
February 12
17:01 2018

January Edition, NET Bureau, Saidul Khan

Curtains up for 2018 election: Fight for survival, Congress charm amongst hill people and rise of saffron

Election fever is high in Meghalaya, which goes for poll in February. Most political parties believe that Congress would be ousted and is all out to give a united fight to Dr Mukul Sangma government.

The state is set to witness a high voltage election that is eagerly awaited especially by the opponents – the BJP, National People’s Party (NPP) and United Democratic Party (UDP).

Indeed Meghalaya is gearing up for an interesting battle that would see a new era of politics with the rise of saffron and regional parties.

It will be a deciding factor for Congress, as it will test whether the hills and minorities still hold the party as its “own”. It will also decide whether the party founded by strongman of politics Purno Agitok Sangma’s NPP will be able to make considerable impact given the fact that anti-incumbency has created a sense of feeling that Congress has not been able to deliver.

The catch line of the saffron party for “change” will be accepted or not. The battle will give the clear result. The election would signal if the regional forces would survive the test of democracy.

Analysts are keeping their fingers crossed as saffron party, which has made its presence in Assam, Arunachal and Manipur are of the view that something similar may happen in Meghalaya.

Saffron Making its Presence Felt

BJP, so far, have not projected anyone as its CM candidate but believes that “Modi magic” would work in the hills. The boost for BJP can be gauged from the fact that in all the 60 constituencies people have joined their fold. This is the biggest achievement for the saffron, which is perceived as a “Hindu party”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating the Shillong – Tura National Highway also addressed a public rally at Shillong, wherein he said that Congress ruined the state in the last 15 years. Modi sounded poll bungle and said that the wave for change has begun in Northeast with Assam election.

Modi clearly indicated that there was a “corrupt system” in Meghalaya and the youth are frustrated due to rise in unemployment.

Though BJP has no MLA in the state but their level of confidence is very high.

In December, the BJP had several booth level workers meet, wherein they made effort to infuse ideals of the party and agenda clear for the election, while the Congress party was busy in their last minute inauguration spree led by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.

NPP perceived to have its inroad in Garo Hills has made a significant impact in Khasi – Jaintia Hills in the past six months and have emerged as the most influential party in Meghalaya. In a span of less than two months seven MLAs joined NPP, which had just two MLAs in the current assembly. NPP is upbeat about its prospects and had even paraded its leaders from Manipur. The party is optimistic of its win. NPP Chief Conrad K. Sangma is gearing up for the election and has already addressed several public meetings across Meghalaya and have demonstrated NPP’s rise.

Mukul’s opponent have undermined Congress rule. However, the fact that CM is a seasoned politician it would be difficult for anyone to guess how he plays his card. Mukul is set to contest from two constituencies apart from his home constituency i.e Ampati. He is already made his political stunts in Songsak constituency of East Garo Hills, which is currently represented by NPP veteran Nihim D. Shira.

Mukul is the only CM after Salseng Marak, who has completed his full term in the office. There were several attempts in the past five years to oust him but all efforts have gone astray. Mukul has initiated a number of welfare programmes in the state and it would be difficult in at least pockets, where there are visible developmental impacts as opposition are labeling him “corrupt”.

Will people buy allegations that Mukul has not done anything for Meghalaya?

The CM has been all out talking to people about how he has been able to put Meghalaya on the pedestal of growth.

As we head for election, the popular narrative that would be created by political parties would be “CHANGE” and it will be left to the people who would build their own castle of imaginative dreams. Electorates have their own aspirations and dreams, how political parties will carve and cash on their dreams is perhaps a million dollar questions.

Social media is loaded with conversations and narratives on the election but there are no clearcut indications and display of mood. Media has been giving space to all political parties to put their agenda but it has become very difficult to gauge the mood.

Media penetration is amongst a small section in this hill state unlike states like Assam, Gujarat or Himachal, wherein media plays a pivotal role to build opinion.

The burning issues that would be discussed during the election are “development”, “poor economic indicators”, “Corruption” and “unemployment” but the real challenge would be how effectively the political parties would find its way to deal with the crisis and answer people.

People have increasingly become conscious and are ready to question their representatives, so the leaders have to be upright in facing the tough questions. Election has seen a major change in the country and Meghalaya is not left behind. The ethical voting campaign is being popularised by the election department and an innovative exercise are being taken up by the department to increasing voting and level of consciousness.

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