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Post poll verdict traumas

By Toki Blah

            With no intention of gloating or saying “I told you so” this writer did predict, in pre election write-ups,  that the Congress party in Meghalaya would eventually emerge as the single largest party  but that a huge question mark existed whether His Excellency, the Governor,  would invite it to form the Government. That eventually came to pass. This essay is no attempt to say that what has happened is good or bad. However by the time this goes to press it would all be water under the Wahumkhrah bridge. It’s all over, bar the shouting but funnily enough that is what most of us are now indulging in. Shouting our lungs out, that is. The people have given their verdict however split and fractured it may be. Little point in shouting hoarse over it now. A coalition Government has been formed and like it or not, there is precious little one can do about it. The best course of action is to quit living in the past or in “what may have been”. The best one can do is to allow this Government to go about its business. Plenty of time, opportunity and possibilities to ‘feed fat ‘on the mistakes it’s bound to make in the future. That’s electoral democracy. That’s the narrative bestowed upon us by our constitution.

            An interesting feature of the last election was the absence of a wave over any issue or for any party. No party was able to evoke any fervour or passion in the electorate and if there was any keenness for the NPP it was mostly because of the anti incumbency factor against the ruling Congress, than anything else. Enthusiasm, if any, was more for the individual and the tamasha he could provide. Face book and Whatsapp images of dancing crowds and mammoth car rallies centred round the personality of the candidate and the moolah he was able to spread around. True that the theme of the elections was for change but when unexpected rapid dramatic change did come it took everyone by surprise. This change proved to be too traumatic for some. The return of two BJP MLAs, their inclusion in the ruling dispensation, Donkupar Roy refusing  the CM’s chair (an astonishing political phenomenon worthy of being included in the Believe it or Not category) and the BJP putsch by upstaging all other parties at the swearing in at Raj Bhavan, was more than what our hardboiled local politicians could stomach. Howls of protest of “Being stabbed in the back and of betrayal” rent the air! The fact remains that people had just given their verdict. Political manipulation was then enacted. Change took place. But that is life. Learn to live with it.

            Then there are those who now wish to rake up the issue of Garo CM versus Khasi CM. One is forced to ask if such a debate has any merit or rationale behind it? It sounds so parochial, so narrow and so indicative of a closed mindset. Ethnicity aside, what does one expect of a Chief Minister? What should be his composite profile? The first quality is that he is the first among equals, meaning thereby that he should enjoy the trust and confidence of his cabinet and his fellow MLAs. Personality traits of self confidence, charm and charisma are essential. He should have the capacity to lead his team. This is fundamental. Second he must have adequate grasp and skill in management of resources especially management of scarce fiscal resources. Thirdly he must be adept or seem adept in administrative skills. He has to lead and guide the administration of the state. All in all the overall governance of Meghalaya is his sole responsibility and should be his forte.  The former CM, Dr Mukul Sangma, whether you like him or not possessed such qualities. The present CM, Conrad Sangma apparently has a knack for the same. It’s coincidental that both are from Garo Hills but let’s not make such a big deal about that. For the common man its the type and style of governance the Government provides that matters. As long as good governance is delivered, a Khasi or a Garo CM is one and the same. The Government has to contend with the running of the state. Let losers contend on issues of meaningless racial superiority. Now why does the image of a Don Quixote tilting at his windmills refuse to leave my mind?

             A new Government has been installed. We now have to ensure that it delivers and deliver on issues that matter to the state and its people. In the Government we have the NPP and the UDP as major partners to this coalition. A redeeming factor in both their manifestoes is the priority to be given to Education and the promise to revive it. Our Education system is in a shambles and demands urgent and immediate revamp. 85% of the rural primary schools of Meghalaya do not have trained teachers. God only knows what and how impressionable young minds are being taught. The ability of the student for analytic reasoning has been deliberately discouraged. Rote learning is encouraged by inept teachers and seems to be the order of the day. The state lacks an Education Policy and there is no curriculum. From all indications MBOSE seems to be totally at sea, manned and administered by people who seem least interested in imparting quality education. The focus of the education department has shifted from the welfare of the student to the wellbeing of the teacher. If we are to progress, an urgent review of our education system is on the cards. Clearly the new Education Minister will have his hands full. Instead of leaving education in the hands of a few incompetent babus perhaps the time has come for the Government to involve professional educationists who will rescue education from the morass it finds itself in; revive once again the thrill and excitement of learning; imbibe once again the pride in Meghalaya of being an educational hub. The new Govt has its job cut out for it.

            Aside from Education, Meghalaya also has to find ways and means on how to redeem the economy. Easy availability of funds from the centre is fine but we also have to devise ways and means on how to generate our own revenue. Exploitative coal mining might not be the most equitable way forward. Tourism offers an environmentally cleaner, more sustainable and definitely more inclusive method of improving our economy. Aside from local Indian tourists, International tourism; payment in dollars with an eye on the tourist from Bangladesh might not be such a far-fetched prospect for the people and the state. Aspects of unregulated influx will have to be addressed however. Under the circumstances the ILP as an influx regulatory mechanism might not be the most practical nor the most feasible for our needs. The new CM has already hinted at it. Influx needs to be regulated but can it be done with a bit more of imagination and finesse suitable to our needs and requirements? I believe it can be done but this write-up is neither the place nor the occasion for a detailed discussion on the subject. A larger more inclusive platform to debate on the subject of Influx and how to regulate it is therefore called for.

            The challenges before the new Govt are many and varied. They are challenges that are being faced by the Govt on behalf of the people who elected it to power. On the rural sector the issue of livelihoods and environmental degradation are uppermost while in our urban areas the call for better civic administration is the crying need. The State needs better roads, better healthcare facilities and communication infrastructure while a growing generation of educated unemployed cry for urgent and immediate attention. The tragedy of Meghalaya is that it lacks a vision of where to go and how to get there. The late PA Sangma as Chairman of the State Planning Board in the erstwhile MPA Govt of 2008 had attempted to bring in such a concept. Sadly the Govt fell and his initiative fell with it. Ten years down the line the onus of reviving his father’s efforts, of bestowing Meghalaya with a vision for  development, has now fallen on the shoulders of young Conrad. I sincerely believe that as a people; as a community; as those who believe in the destiny of Meghalaya it is our duty to empower this state of ours with the roadmap it so desperately requires. After the recent electoral verdict that will be the real trial that awaits the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance!

(The writer is President ICARE an organisation that focuses on issues of Good Governance).

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