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Is it advantage NDA partners in round one?

By H.H. Mohrmen

The New Year has been good to some political parties in the state. It has brought good tidings to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners in the state. The recent development will no doubt boost the morale of the leaders and the followers of both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National People’s Party (NPP) in the state, but the question is whether the swelling of the NPP ranks by former Congress stalwarts will translate into votes and help the parties win seats in the house. 

This time around the National People’s Party received a New Year gift quite early, when the five Congress, two independents and one United Democratic Party (UDP) MLA tendered their resignation letter on December 29 and formally joined the party on the January 4.  Although the defection  was expected and it has been talk of the state for over two months that the MLAs are going to defect to the NPP and the resignation thereafter and their joining the new party was just a formality, yet, it cannot be denied that it is a shot in the arm for the NPP which hopes to be the front runner to lead the coalition government after the election.

The eight MLAs who have resigned their membership in the assembly and formally resigned from their respective parties are Rowell Lyngdoh (Mawkyrwat), Prestone Tynsong (Pynursla), Sniawbhalang Dhar (Nartiang), Ngaitlang Dhar (Umroi) and Commingone Ymbon all former Congress’ legislators. The Independent MLAs are Hopeful Bamon (Sutnga Saipung) and Stephanson Mukhim (Amlarem) and the lone UDP MLA who defected from the regional party is Remington Pyngrope (Mawkynrew).

The success of the NPP will largely depend on two counts. (1) if and only if all the defected MLA from the Khasi Jaintia region of the state retain their seats (2) If the party is able to defeat the Congress in Garo hills region of the state which (till the last assembly election) is the Congress bastion. Both tasks are not easily surmountable and the party will have to fight tooth and nail to accomplish the twin goals if it is to lead the next coalition government in the state.  

The BJP camp also received its own share of good news in the poll-bound state of Meghalaya when on the New Year’s day four MLAs – AL Hek (Pynthor) from the Congress, Sanbor Shullai (Shillong South) former President of the Nationalist Congress Party, and two Independent MLAs from Jaintia Hills, Justine Dkhar (Khliehriat) and Robinus Syngkong (Mowkaiaw) resigned their membership to the house and formally joined the party on the same day. But prior to the major development, the BJP was able to rope in former MLAs in the Garo hills region of the state who formally joined the party on December 29.

The four former MLAs who joined the saffron party in the Garo hills are former NPP and Tura MLA Billykid A Sangma, ex Rangsakona legislator Adulf Lu Hitler, Omillo Sangma, ex MLA of Kharkutta and John Manner Marak ex MLA of Bajengdoba. Considering the recent developments at the very beginning of this year, it looks like the BJP is well poised to make a mark in the upcoming election to the Meghalaya state assembly.

The BJP will however face some challenges in some constituencies because the candidates who have earlier joined the party and projected themselves as the potential candidates will have to make way for the incumbent legislators who have recently joined the party with the blessings of the high command. The most prominent BJP member who has also visited different parts of the Shillong South Constituency is Manas Chaudhuri, who is also a former cabinet minister of the state. The joining of Sanbor Shullai who is his bête noire is a setback for Chaudhuri who was expecting to contest the ensuing election on a BJP ticket.

Considering the line-up of candidates to the Shillong South constituency; Chaudhuri is in a good position to win the seat this time around because Sounder Strong Cajee the NPP candidates could cut into Sanbor’s vote bank. Sanbor is playing his cards very well. He realizes that the only option for him to win this time around is to contest on a BJP ticket and prevent Chaudhuri who has already joined the BJP months ahead from contesting the coming assembly election. This way he will retain the Shillong South LA constituency, but if Manas refuses to capitulate to this clever ploy, the Congress will definitely find a candidate who can give Sanbor a befitting challenge. The ball as they say is now on Manas Chaudhuri’s court.

In the Jaintia hills region, the lone female Member of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) Violet Lyngdoh and the cousin of BJP state President Shibun Lyngdoh has also been canvassing in the area and projecting herself as the potential BJP candidate from Khliehriat constituency, but now she will have to make way for the incumbent MLA Justine Dkhar. In the same way, in Mowkaiaw constituency ECB Bamon former minister who had also only recently resigned from the position of the Vice President of NPP has also projected himself as the potential candidate of the BJP from the area but now after Independent MLA Robinus Syngkon joined the BJP, Bamon has been left high and dry!

For the BJP the last minute entry of some members who are also given the party ticket to contest the election is a double-edged sword. It could be a blessing as well a curse to the Party – a blessing if the members of the party who have projected themselves as candidates remain loyal to the party, but since there is no dearth of political parties in Meghalaya now, it will not be a surprise if they decide to switch sides and contest the ensuing assembly election from another party. If the potential BJP candidates decide to join other parties to contest the elections then it will be a setback for the BJP in the area.

In the Garo hills region, the very reason that the NDA partners are fighting each other is going to provide an ample opportunity for the Congress to win maximum numbers of seats from the region this coming election. The anti incumbency factors could very well be against the Congress but the very fact that the BJP and the NPP don’t have a pre-poll alliance in many constituencies will only divide the opposition votes and it will be advantageous to the Congress in Garo hills. If the Congress wins the maximum numbers of the 24 seat available from the Garo hills region then it can be a major player in the government formation after the election. 

It is also sheer coincidence that the clarion call of both the NDA partners’  to the voters in the state is to vote for “CHANGE” in Meghalaya, but the question is what change are we talking about? When both the BJP and the NPP are pitching for the defectors who had failed the state in the first place when they were in the Congress led MUA II government, how can people expect change to happen? After all the legislators are merely switching sides. What change can one expect from a party which has failed to get candidates in the four constituencies and has to head-hunt candidates from the same family to these constituencies?

Now will the legislators who have deserted their parties be able to influence the voters to vote for the new party? If the answer is “No,” then the entire drama of resigning and joining a new party will be a futile exercise that the two NDA partners have indulged in.  The leaders of these two parties are talking about the winds of change that are blowing on the rolling hills of the state but change is not likely to happen even if they win.  Old wine in new bottles tastes insipid. Period. 

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