April 11, the voting date for the First Phase of Lok Sabha elections, will cover 91 constituencies across 20 states, including two seats from Meghalaya. All the nine candidates for both the seats- three for Tura and six for Shillong, are projecting self as the strong contender, however, neither the individual candidate nor the political parties could convince the electorates with pragmatic manifestoes.
In the state of Meghalaya, the Indian National Congress (INC) is trying to retain the Shillong Parliamentary seat for the third term, while for the Tura seat, the entry of former Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Manda Sangma (INC) has posed a tough challenge for National People’s Party (NPP) candidate, Agatha Kongkal Sangma. She is seeking re-election after a self-imposed sabbatical leave after the 15th Session of the Lok Sabha. Her father, late Purno A Sangma was elected to 16th Lok Sabha from Tura but his sudden demise forced her brother Conrad Kongkal Sangma to fill the void by winning the bye-election. He later had to resign to take up the chair of Meghalaya’s Chief Minister.
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 while it fielded its candidate from Tura. 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 date, before the campaigning ends 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 are missing.
It is time the masses adopt the same practice of Civil Society groups in Nagaland who have organized an interactive event titled ‘Voters’ Voice: An Interface’, to be held here on April 2, 2019, with the theme- ‘Elections belong to us’, led by the Coordination Committee on Participation in Democracy, which will attempt to discuss the “Peoples Agenda in Election 2019”.
According to the people of Nagaland, there are various issues like roads and infrastructure, law and order, education and human trafficking, which will be taken up at the event, at the same time representatives of the political parties will be asked to share key features of their manifestoes and engage in an interaction with members of civil society, education institutes and voters in general, representing various sectors.
Meghalaya in the past had organized debates for all the contesting candidates in various constituencies, providing them a platform to spell out their vision. The Doordarshan Kendra, Shillong and All India Radio used to provide Air time for the candidates to appeal for vote, however, it is felt that there are still various issues being ignored.
The state of Meghalaya too should adopt the same People’s Agenda in Election 2019 as the mandate for the candidates, who could lay out the blue print by attracting maximum Central Schemes and projects, and improving trade and commerce and work towards the progress of the state.
The People’s Agenda in Election 2019 could also present a time-frame agenda for the elected MPs to adopt the villages for overall development such that by five years, maximum development can be achieved. Wake up, it is time for the electorates to voice their concerns for the interest of the state by participating in the world’s largest festival of democracy.