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New dispensation: What’s in store for the hoi polloi?

By Banshan Marwein

Meghalaya finally has a new government with a couple of new faces in the Cabinet. The newly elected legislators have numerous errands before them. The unprecedented defeat of some outspoken ex-MLAs (Paul Lyngdoh, P.N. Syiem, Jemino Mawthoh etc) has shocked many in the state because these are the same legislators who have always voiced their apprehensions on various issues hindering the development of the state. Their loss can also be attributed to the twist of electoral politics in Meghalaya. However let us be optimistic that the new legislators will not compromise on various key issues concerning the state. No doubt issues were raised and addressed publicly in various platforms during the election campaigns but the luckiest candidates finally won. After all, election is like a game of chess which is so unpredictable especially in Meghalaya. Someone has rightly pointed out that an earthquake can be predicted but election result is difficult if not impossible to predict.

The national media, political analysts and national political leaders have tried to explain the politics in Meghalaya from a very mainstream perspective by seeing it as the fight between the Congress and BJP. Ultimately their presumptions have been proved wrong when BJP was relegated to only two MLAs in a House of sixty. If we analyse this election then we will see several factors at play. There is the influence of party ideologies, personalities, money power, et al which make it difficult to understand what ticks. Be that as it may the important point is whether the new legislators will fulfill the aspirations of the people. While some promises were unrealistic at least the basic needs of people should be fulfilled.

Interestingly the Congress party will be in the opposition and expectedly it will be more vocal in its approach in the August House.

My question to all the candidates who contested the elections is whether they will continue to fight as they did during elections and address those issues that they raised.Will they join hands with the common people to demand from the new government to bring forth development and people centric policies?If we keep pressurizing and talk politics every day I believe genuine change might happen. However, we know very well that the welfare of the people has always been camouflaged by a short term schema. But let us not jump the gun since many are new to the game. One of the reasons why our society is going backwards is because we are too scared to talk and ask certain questions from our representatives. Is it because we are forced not to talk or question the government or representatives? Aren’t we the ones who elected them?

Elections without agenda would be a futile exercise. During elections every political party has had a long list of agenda but without highlighting the roadmap. Political parties have stressed on the need to legislate various policies that are in tandem with the ambitions of the people, especially for creating job opportunities. There is also other burning issues like the boundary problem with Assam, the railway project, the Village Administration Bill, Inner Line Permit (Influx issue) etc. mentioned in their manifestoes. Development has always been the top agenda of all political parties but it has evaded us for decades. In a coalition government with many political parties’ some of the party ideologies will be compromised as the new Chief Minister himself has acknowledged.   

Though Meghalaya has voted for a fractured mandate but let us repose our faith in the new members and hope that they will not be busy fighting among themselves. Instead they will bring change and make good the promises made during elections. I think one of the most talked about issue during elections is to ensure job security by bringing job opportunities through various means and without playing a nepotistic politics. But one doubts if nepotism will be rooted out.  Hence it is people who should be vigilant and fight nepotism. Ask any educated unemployed youth and they would appreciate the new government if they could solve the unemployment issue and the issue of contractual/temporary workers that has been there since forever.

We anticipate a different approach towards the above issues from the coalition partners comprising NPP, UDP, HSPDP, PDF, Independents, BJP and lately the NCP which has also joined them. Though the regional parties have accused each other during elections campaign particularly that NPP is a team B of BJP but that accusation has died down overnight. The propaganda of saffron politics was made clear since day one by the regional parties but the post poll alliance between regional parties and BJP along with NPP has disappointed many even to the extent that the President of HSPDP resigned because the Party MLAs did not turn down their support to the idea of Non-BJP government.The future looks very grim but it all depends on the wisdom of the new legislators to counter the saffron party if it tries to outsmart the whole political system in Meghalaya.

Though the political parties are almost the same in their approach and dynastic- politico- business class are holding the key decision making but if they could prioritize governance over power and government, this would be an interesting development. It goes without saying that the political parties who are in the ruling dispensation will be more cautious now for the upcoming controversies which they have learnt from the previous governments. The fact of the matter is that the aspirations of the people should not be sidelined.

The new members will be dealing with diverse issues and also continue with the projects that the previous government has initiated. Unfortunately the State treasury itself is in deficit and funds infusion will be required from all sources but it all depends on the intelligence of the new dispensation to go ahead with the visions that they have for the people. As Union Minister, Kiren Rijiju said during the recent interview in Shillong, the Central Government will give full support to the State government for its developmental activities. Lets us see if this becomes a reality.

Though it is still unlikely that Meghalaya basic problems will be solved any time soon, the new legislators have to work hard to ensure that some of the persistent problems are tackled. To mention a few, we have footpaths that cannot be used; unruly parking spaces in the city; repeated power cuts especially in villages; we have public toilets that are equivalent to sewage dumps;  roads that are equivalent to swimming pools; we have very few government colleges, forget about a state university. We have hospitals without proper facilities and water scarcity in most of the towns and villages etc. These are only few examples that cause a lot of inconveniences. They stem from the corrupt and reckless practices of past governments. Will the new government take urgent initiative to solve these issues?  While anticipating for decent infrastructural and other developmental activities in the state, the new legislators alongside the administrators should be smart enough to give up their selfish interests and first understand the problems of the people?

The future will be dismal if the new dispensation does not take the above into account because if they cannot solve these basic problems, how can we expect them tobe able to solve other hot and crucial issues? In any case we need more voices in critiquing all aspects of questionable practices and loopholes in the government so that we can be effective whistle-blowers. Pretentiousness and the VIP culture are cancers in the system so the newly elected MLAs should give up their comfort and wastage of public money.

Though it is still a utopian dream that a vibrant change will happen in the coming days but HOPE is the only thing that matters. In the near future one hopes that people will be sensitized enough to demand their rights. It’s about time that Meghalaya changes otherwise the malignant game of abusing power is going to disappoint us as it has been happening. At the end of the day we want principled politics and pro-people policies from our representatives.

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