The February 27 poll to the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, for the first time since the formation of the Statehood, witnessed one of the most unprepared elections, in terms of finalization of party candidates. The usual practice is for the respective constituency blocks forwarding the name of the candidate months before the announcement of Poll Date by the Election Commission of India. This time, the presence of many dissident party members switching to other camps has resulted in the present crisis.
Almost all the political parties- National as well as Regional have encountered the unfortunate incidents of active members tendering resignation after being denied a party ticket and had immediately switched to other party to contesting from the same constituency. In the past too many aspirants for the party ticket had pulled off similar moves where the aggrieved candidate had gone ahead to file the nomination to contest as an Independent candidate and not changing the party at the eleventh hour.
The Election campaigning in the past for the poll bound state would have been in full swing by this time, however the supporters and the electorates are not at all assured as from which candidate they will vote. The hardcore party supporters have seen their candidate in other party camp, while the ones presently in the party were never the first choice. The vote banks are split wide open, as there are those who stay loyal to the candidate while there are others pledging allegiance to the party the candidate had left.
The cause for such confusion started about five months back greatly due to the well known fact about the dissidents and in-fighting in the ruling Congress camp, leading to dissolving of four Block Congress Committees (BCC) by Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), which includes Nartiang BCC, Marang BCC, Mawkynrew BCC and Mawryngkneng BCC.
This time almost all the candidates were trying their best in shows of strength by taking out huge processions while filing of nomination papers as the first step towards the Legislative Assembly, the new beginning by keeping the past behind.
But such processions cannot rewrite the fact that indeed there are also leadership issues, which is one of the main causes for the dissidence. The dissidents in the Congress camp failed to find any replacement for Dr Mukul M Sangma, who seems to have united all the elected representatives from Garo Hills. The disputes are mainly from Khasi and Jaintia Hills, including Bhoi and West Khasi Hills.
With regards to the regional front, which is an amalgamation of many small regional parties, each of the constituents expect their respective leaders to get plum post. Though they are working on the basis of minimum programme, but their individual agendas have to be met, hence it is difficult to satisfy every elected representative, which has led to the rumblings within the regional camp as each wants to attain supremacy over the others.
This attitude of individual regional parties has fragmented the spirit of regionalism. Above that, they are opposing the national parties to come to power in the state. There are also occasions where the regional parties have entered coalitions to form the government in order to avoid fresh elections. Such marriage of convenience had never lasted its full term; it splits just before the election.
The outgoing Assembly session perhaps is the only session where the regional parties have sat in the Opposition bench for a full term. They could not deliver as strong opposition during the session due to lack of coordination amongst themselves.
On the other hand, National People’s Party (NPP), under the National Leadership of Lok Sabha MP Conrad K Sangma is leaving no stone unturned to unseat the Congress from Garo Hills in particular, and snatch power in Meghalaya. The last elections’ performance was attributed to time factors, as they had put on new outfit as NPP after coming out from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This time, they had an entire full term to sensitize the voters about their ideologies and party symbol. But resting the entire hope on Conrad alone is dangerous, it is time that former Lok Sabha member - Agatha K. Sangma takes an active role to garner votes for the party.
NCP is once again trying to retain its place in the Meghalaya Assembly. With the hope to increase the number, work is already underway to strengthen the grass root workers; even though a few months back there were rumors that the party might merge with the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP meanwhile is trying its best to come back to Meghalaya Assembly, but the Demonetization followed by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the fear of saffronizing the Christian state has turned out to be major problems for the party. The most difficult issue is the fear of a beef ban, which most of the BJP ruled states are imposing.
Under such confusion of almost all the political parties, each of them are expecting to gain a few sitting representatives or good leaders, hence most of them are yet to finalize the list of candidates, because most of the sitting MLAs will not risk their pension if they are being disqualified with just a few more months to end this session nor will they resign.
In this confusion, the political parties are yet to seek the mandates from their respective constituency, or to draft their respective manifestoes. The electorate will be forced to make a last minute decision while voting because as of now many will change uniform (Political Party), meaning, the upcoming election will mainly be based on individual charisma and not on mandate. It also means the next Session too will not deliver much as Meghalaya moves into its 50th (Golden) statehood year.