Saffronization phobia escalates, overshadows regionalism

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
The state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is jubilant in being included in the Cabinet of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) coalition led by National People’s Party (NPP) Supremo Conrad Kongkal Sangma. At the same time, to welcome the Central Leaders and Senior Leaders of the party during the Swearing-in Ceremony on March 6, 2018, the party here had gone had overboard by hoisting too many party flags, life size posters of Narendra Damodardas Modi and Amit Shan along the route towards Raj Bhawan. Also, the showering of flower petals at the entrance of the Governor’s House received huge criticism from a section of the society which fears that the other four Regional Parties, including the NPP, who have maximum MLAs (19 members) will be relegated to an obscure component under the Central diktat of the BJP which has only two members in Meghalaya Assembly.

It may be mentioned that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP President Amit Shah, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, designated Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and former Assam and Mizoram Chief Ministers Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Zoramthanga were the invitees for the induction of NPP led MDA Government.
The former Chief of Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, who lost by just 76 votes to Lambor Malngiang (Ind) in Nongkrem constituency on March 5, 2018 just a day before the swearing in ceremony held a Press Conference, expressed the party’s unhappiness with the decision of the Regional ally - the United Democratic Party (UDP) to project NPP Chief Conrad as the next Chief Minister of Meghalaya, whereas, Prestone Tynsong was earlier projected as the CM candidate by the NPP pre-election. When his party Legislators was inducted to the cabinet, he resigned as the Party Chief.
He also said that the HSPDP also reminded the masses that throughout the election campaigns, they were seeking the mandate of the people with the assurances that there will be a Non- Congress and Non- BJP government. Hence, if the BJP is the alliance to the proposed government, his Legislators will withdraw their support.
It may be once again reminded that Meghalaya is one of the unique states carved out from Assam without shedding a single drop of blood. It was the All Party Hill Leaders Conference (APHLC) which carved out Meghalaya from Assam.
APHLC was formed on July 6, 1960, to press for the demand to have a separate state called Meghalaya. In the General Elections of 1962, APHLC won 11 of 15 hill MLAs seat and also won the only parliamentary seat. The final blow to the patience of APHLC leaders was the passing of Assam Official Language Act, following which, APHLC MLAs resigned from the Assam Assembly on October 24, 1962. The action was rewarded with the statehood on January 21, 1972, since than Regional Political Party has always been the largest segment of state Assembly.
The 9th Assembly had 29 Indian National Congress (INC) MLAs, the biggest win of Congress for the first time in the state Assembly. The February 27, 2018 poll witnessed the Anti-incumbency wave, at the same time the March 3 verdict also shows that BJP failed to achieve a strong mandate, as the party contested in 47 seats, winning only two. In the case of Sanbor Shullai who was elected from South Shillong constituency, it is widely believed that no matter which symbol he seek election under, he is more or less guaranteed victory. His vote bank comprises the poor and the downtrodden across all sections of the society in his constituency. His ever willingness to extend all possible assistances to anyone who knocks on his door is the main factor of his success in returning in the 10th session of the assembly even under the lotus symbol, even though a section of votes from Lumparing is said to have voted against him.
A L Hek, who was re-elected from Pynthorumkhrah, had a tough fight, as he had once deserted the BJP to join Congress in the 2013 polls and had returned to the BJP this time. He has now been elected as the Leader of the Legislative Party and this time he needs to perform both in the cabinet and in his own constituency.
NPP which assured good governance, needs to remember that the 46 year old state, for the past two decades has witnessed bandh on two National holidays – January 26 and August 15 consecutively. Thus most of the present day youth, till the degree level as of now have never partaken in Flag Hoisting on these two occasions. How do we expect to arouse patriotism to our nation? Added with adopting of Western Culture, the attachment to the statehood is losing the ground.
It was only after the Meghalaya High Court had Banned such bandh, also curbing the media to report on such issues that we have witness the change, but the term ‘regionalism’ is yet to sink into the young minds of present day Meghalaya.
The United Democratic Party (UDP), the culmination of various regional parties has always been in the Treasury Bench of Assembly, either leading the government or as coalition partner. But in the 9th Session, they were kept in the Opposition Bench, hence, this time the Congress, which secured 21 seats failed to convince it to align with it to form a Congress led or even as UDP led government.
Yet another Regional party, after staying out of power for a term, Chokpot Assembly Constituency brought back Garo National Council (GNC) candidate – Clifford Marak into the 9th Session of the Assembly, who has been advocating for separate Garo State, but the untimely demise of Clifford have lost the seat to the Congress during the Bye-poll. This time GNC has failed to gain entry into the Assembly.
After the demise of HSPDP chief, Hoping Stone Lyngdoh, the party could only win two seats in the 10th Session of the Assembly. Both the regional parties have common agenda of separate state, while development in their strong hold is still far behind, yet the regionalism from these pockets are steadfast.
Even the pressure groups and the underground outfits are all using the regionalism card. All claim to be the custodian of the tribals land and culture. One such political party - Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) after battling back the party recognition from Election Commission of India suffered a major loss this time as only Adelbert Nongrum managed a victory; the party attributed the loss to absence of Non Tribal voters against their candidates. This only confirmed the imperative for a cosmopolitan outlook for the political party, pure regionalism is losing ground in the state.
If Meghalaya has to move towards development and globalization with Non Congress or Non BJP led government, it requires a stable government which the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government, where NPP is an alliance, promises to give this time will have to overcome the phobia of Saffronization and exhibit the spirit of Regionalism being the associated with North-East Democratic Alliance or NEDA, a political coalition that was formed on May 24, 2016 by Bharatiya Janata Party.
Hence, the NPP led MDA government, if possible should keep BJP as an ally with outside support, and perform in spirit with regional outfits with a Nationalism vision in state politics, such that the infrastructure of the state can develop with the assistance of the central funds. The new government must perform and respect the mandate of the people as this is the only means to provide a stable government.


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