Months of preparations finally end. Now the countdown begins for the polling day. There is no doubt that this election is going to be crucial. Political leaders will soon stop beating their drums to the voters’ doorstep. It is all up to the electorate now to decide their fate for the next five years. But how many among the electors know what the parties are promising? Are they aware of the manifestos which were released in the last few weeks amid much fanfare? Well, most of the voters whom Sunday Shillong spoke to said they never saw the precious booklets though they have a vague idea from the speeches of different candidates.
The million-dollar question that has been raised time and again is whether Meghalaya has progressed in the last decade. The incumbent government and its rivals are at daggers drawn over the topic. While the former is busy defending its action and inaction the latter is harping on the failures and promising a better future.
On the top of the list of failures are education and healthcare sectors and unemployment. Prospective leaders have laid down rough drafts of their five-year plans. Call it vision document or people’s document or election manifesto, the thin booklets released by political parties in the state have voters’ aspirations locked inside. There is emphasis on improving higher education by setting up medical and engineering colleges. The need for a comprehensive education policy has also been felt. In fact, a policy in each sector is necessary, feel many parties and they promise to work towards making these a reality. However, none of the parties has set any time frame for fulfilling any promise because that makes the going tougher after victory.
Talking about healthcare, the appalling condition of rural health centres has been a bone of contention of years now. “This time,” declared many candidates on their campaign trail, “real change will come.” So they have promised better insurance benefits and upgraded facilities at primary and community health centres. One has even pledged to “initiate institutional support of indigenous systems of medicines by investing in scientific research and development”.
To tide over the crisis of jobs in Meghalaya, many parties are planning to boost economic growth first though it should have been the opposite. Some have promised to bridge the gap between professional, technical and vocational education and others have promised social security scheme for teachers.
For other sectors like agriculture, power and mining, the ruling party’s opponents are promising the best service. The promises are bold and are like music to voters’ ears but only temporarily, maybe.
Despite such serious commitments there are some misses, either deliberate or out of ignorance. The political rivals have thought it safe not to steer the course of railways fearing violent consequences and a deep impact on voting patterns.
Many of the parties and their candidates have not even taken into account the welfare of persons with disabilities in the state even after the Election Department’s intensive campaign for accessible voting. When pointed out, one candidate from North Shillong said with conviction that he has made it a point to include it in his vision document.
With such half-hearted manifestos and incomplete visions, the electorate’s job of choosing the right candidate becomes tougher. “I will vote because I have been voting for so many years and have never shifted my loyalty unlike these leaders. Manifestos are printed and distributed before every election but has anything changed so far? The visionary leaders turn blind, deaf and dumb after they win the election. So for minions like us it is only a leap of faith. You survive or you die,” said a septuagenarian roadside vendor at Police Bazar who had taken some time out of his day’s work to listen to a candidate’s speech near MUDA Complex.