Meghalaya has voted; results will tell if party ideology or personal charisma attracted the votes

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A visually impaired voter being assisted by an Anganwadi worker outside Dalia PS under Shella AC after casting her vote

The increase in turnout of voters for the Lok Sabha polling in Meghalaya, compared to 2014 polls, is an encouraging sign. According to State’s Chief Electoral Officer, Fredrick Roy Kharkongor, around 67 per cent votes were polled in the Lok Sabha elections to the Shillong and Tura parliamentary seats which passed off peacefully on April 11. He added that information is still being awaited from over 644 polling stations due to various reasons which include network connectivity even as he expressed hope that the voting percentage will go up after getting final figures.

As per the reports, Tura parliamentary constituency recorded higher turnout compared to Shillong parliamentary constituency. Giving a breakup constituency wise, the voter turnout in the Shillong parliamentary constituency was registered at 63.56 per cent of 11,95,662 voters, which is much lesser compared to Tura parliamentary constituency at 75.60 per cent of 7,15,707 voters. The counting will held in 13 centres on May 23.

The turnout of voting has been attributed to the awareness campaigns, where huge number of first time voters were recorded. Kharkongor also congratulated the people of the state especially the persons with disabilities for coming out in large number to exercise their franchise.

The mood and pattern of voting, particularly from the young voters, was cast on the personal charisma of the candidates, as there was just about a month for the candidates to reach out to the electorate.

In Shillong, sitting Congress MP Vincent H Pala is seeking to retain the seat for the third term by contesting against five others which include Dr Jemino Mawthoh (UDP), Sanbor Shullai (BJP) and three Independents – THS Bonney, Samuel Hashah and Romeo Phira Rani.

In Tura, a three-cornered contest is on the cards with Congress leader Dr Mukul Manda Sangma seeking to oust the PA Sangma family from the seat held by them for over 4 decades. He contested against former Tura MP Agatha Kongkal Sangma (NPP) and Rikman G Momin (BJP).

As mentioned, most of the voting public have cast their respective vote not on political parties or the manifestos, but on personal acquaintance with the candidate.

In the case of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), having two members in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and an alliance partner in the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by NPP, have adopted a different strategy for the national politics by fielding their own candidates in both the seats.

The ruling MDA had to back the United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate, Dr Jemino Mawthoh as Common candidate for the Shillong seat. The UDP claimed that the era of ‘Regionalism’ and ‘Tribal interest’ has arrived, as the national parties could not take up various issues of regional interests.

Along with other Independent candidates, till the end of campaigning on April 9, besides emphasizing on political parties’ manifestoes or responding to the charges of the opponent candidates, including mud slashing, the People’s Agenda or Meghalaya centric issues for development were missing. All we heard was about the personal capability of the individual candidate.

It is certain that the winner from both Tura and Shillong seats are the ones who enjoy the popularity through their own capacity and not on political party affiliation. However, it is hopeful that they will surely perform in the August House as there are few pressing issues in the state which needs the interference of the Parliament in the 17th Lok Sabha.