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Fractured mandate imminent in Meghalaya

By HH Mohrmen

It does not take an expert in analysing election (psephologist) to predict that the outcome of the post February 2018 election in Meghalaya is going to be a fractured mandate. The signs are obviously indicating that no party will be able to come up with the required simple majority to be able to form the next government in the state. No matter how hard they work or how optimistic the parties are, no party will cross the half way mark or single- handedly garner more than thirty seats in the next house.

The situation is already in chaos because for the first time in the history of Meghalaya we have maximum numbers of national parties joining the fray in the election to the state assembly. Apart from the major contenders like the Congress, the National People’s Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, we also have the Nationalist Congress Party and the Lokjan Shakti Party which are contesting few seats in the forth coming assembly election. The national parties’ supporters are in a dilemma and they are spoilt for choice because there are too many national parties to choose from. In such a situation the votes will split in all directions and the outcome of the election will not be a real mandate. Because of the split of votes, a candidate with minority support will win the election. 

The case of the regional parties is no different either. There are too many regional parties than required and they are all major contenders in this election. This is especially true in the Khasi Jaintia hills where regional influence is still very strong. The two prominent regional parties in the state were hoping that the pre-poll alliance will be able see them sail through the next election but the problem is that the other regional parties including the newly formed People’s Democratic Front will play spoilsport and spoil the regional alliance game plan.

The Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) may not be a top contender to win many seats in the election, but it will cut into the vote bank of the regional parties and prevent another regional party from winning the seat in whichever constituency it is contesting. But the regional party which will greatly upset the regional alliance is the newly formed Peoples’ Democratic Front. It is yet to be seen if this party like many other regional parties before it will disappear into thin air after the elections but its mere presence in the fray will have a major impact in the prospects of the regional party alliance and their aim of winning many seats in the election.    

As time goes by the prospect of the Congress coming up with the magic number of thirty is drifting further and further away. The only hope for the party is if Dr Mukul Sangma can use his magic wand and help the Congress win the maximum number of seats from Garo hills. Unlike in the Khasi Jaintia region of the state, in the Garo hills except in few constituencies, in many cases it is a two way fight between the NPP and the Congress because there are not many strong contenders in the region. The Chief Minister’s claim that the independent candidates from the region are willing to join the party and contest on a Congress ticket is also going to go in favour of the Congress and help the Party win many more seats from Garo hills.  

In the Khasi Jaintia region of the state, in addition to the exodus of Congress party leaders to join other parties and the decision of the senior party leaders to hang their boots will have a huge impact on the party’s prospect of winning the next election.  Perhaps the timing that the leaders have chosen to quit fighting elections is too late in the day, thereby making it difficult and even impossible for a replacement to garner the same amount of votes as the veterans would have done to retain the seat they have vacated. But the absence of a second line of leadership in the Congress  will also make it difficult for the Party to retain the constituencies which used to be its stronghold. The only hope for the party is with the new entrant to politics who (in all likelihood) will give the defectors from the party a good fight.

The NPP is in euphoria after the exodus of four Congress MLAs to join its fold. Two other independent candidates from Jaintia hills also will join the party soon. This instantaneous development changes the status of the party from one with no MLA from the Khasi Jaintia hills to a party with six MLAs in the region. In all likelihood the NPP is also going to gain another MLA and it will be another loss for the Congress in Jaintia hills but the pertinent question is whether the defectors be able to retain the seats they had earlier won.

The three factors that will go against the NPP is the perception of the people after the defection of Congress’ bigwigs and many MUA II MLAs to the party. People will see the NPP as just another version of the Congress because the same people who were in power during the MUA II regime will rule the roost if the NPP wins the election and comes to power. The second factor is its support to the NDA government at the centre which will affect the Party’s chance of winning and the third and the most important factor is that it all depends on its  performance in Garo hills. The question is whether the NPP can destroy the Congress bastion and win maximum number of seats from Garo hills?    

The division of votes makes predicting the election results difficult and it cannot be denied that in a constituency where there are many candidates contesting the election, an unexpected candidate can come up successfully and win by fluke. It shouldn’t be a surprise if there are surprise wins in the next election because the sheer numbers of parties in the fray have divided the votes and a small swing in favour of any candidate will help him/her clinch the title.

If anybody claims that he or she can predict the results of the ensuing election to the state assembly, then that person is a supporter of a certain candidate or party and is already biased in his/her assessment.  The current scenario also raises another equally important question and that is the kind of coalition government that the state will have after the election. What kind of coalition government is in store for the Meghalaya? The moot question is will it be stable? The reason is because a fractured mandate will also help even small parties win one or two seats which will make formation of government difficult and more likely increase the chances of horse trading.    

The post 2018 election scenario could be advantageous to the UDP-HSPDP alliance- they can be king-makers if they can only stick together. And in such a situation the only option for the regional alliance in the foreseeable future is either to form a government with the Congress or the NPP. Chances are that the NDA government in Delhi will not be in favour of a government in which the Congress is part of the coalition partner and aligning with the NPP is also like supporting the BJP because it is already known that the party is part of the NDA alliance at the centre.  So post February election scenario for the regional alliance is a situation ‘of between the devil and the deep sea’ because both the parties are its enemies and the alliance will have to chose between the lesser of the two evils. 

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