National election has overshadowed ADC election in Meghalaya

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The national media is being bombarded with coverage of the political swing, even before the announcement of the Poll date by the Election Commission. Be it the mud-slashing during the day-long fasting of Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi on a personal front, the hype created by the Congress General Secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on February 11, 2019 managed drawing a major footfall in the road show in Lucknow, to revive the Congress fortunes in 44 Lok Sabha seats of eastern Uttar Pradesh which Priyanka Gandhi will oversee. The aggressive attack on the Modi government by Rahul Gandhi relating to Rafale Deal has been in focus for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha general election.

While in the case of Meghalaya, elections to two out of the three Autonomous Distinct Councils- the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council will be held on February 27, 2019. The Code of Conduct was imposed since February 2, the counting of votes will be held on March 2 next, yet the fever of the election is yet to pick up, particularly in the urban constituencies, while this is just picking up in the rural areas as national election has overshadowed both the Autonomous Distinct Councils poll having 30 seats each, including one nominated seat each.

The national debates may have focused on the performance of the incumbent government; like every other election the move for anti-incumbency is paramount. Hence, the agendas of discussion mainly focus on unemployment, farmers’ woes, corruption and character assassination, while in the case of the Autonomous Distinct Councils here in Meghalaya, they are focusing on the image of the political parties.

It is strange that the issues like border-trade and border fencing which have affected the economy of the habitats in the borders area are not stressed upon. Unemployment issues are not discussed or no blue-print is being examined as to how to generate employment for the citizens. The mining policy could be one of the issues which the council election should have seen stress on, as the miners are the owners of the mine, and not the state government.

The issues of preservation and conservation of the environment, cleaning of Wah Umkhrah and Umshyrpi which the KHADC has taken up, and the health care which is deteriorating and expensive should be included in the manifestoes of the political parties and the candidate to seek the mandate of the masses.

There are various quarters who question the existence of the District Councils in the state where the 47 year old state is yet to codify the traditional customs and practices. This should have been another core discussion for the upcoming February 27 poll, such that the Right to Franchise can be justified, and it will benefit the indigenous tribals, which is the main purpose of the Councils.

Also, the demand for direct central funding should be worked out. As of now, the State government is actually controlling the councils, defeating the very concept of them being autonomous. It is time for the councils to be self-reliant and self-governing.