Developed By: iNFOTYKE
Election 2018: Lessons for political parties
By HH Mohrmen
Every election has lessons to teach those who wish to learn and the last election is no different either. The 2018 election to the Meghalaya State Legislative Assembly has lessons for both the victorious and the vanquished and for both the national and the regional parties. The first and most important lesson is the influence of money. Every candidate (across party lines) who lost the last election blamed money for their defeat which also gives us the idea that no one can win the election without the power of money. This also brings us to the most important question of this column which is whether anyone can really win the election without spending money?
If money is the criterion to win the election then it is safe to conclude that in the future only rich candidates or those supported by businessmen and women who have money can win. When money becomes the major factor for winning elections then it is also going to be a big problem for the regional parties. It is obvious from the 2018 election to the Meghalaya state assembly, that national parties like the NPP, the Congress, BJP and others have no dearth of funds at their disposal, but it is the regional parties that had a financial crunch. The regional parties not only had funding problems but the structure of the organisation also left much to be desired.
National parties like the (different) Communist parties and the BJP are cadre- based organisations and funds wise the BJP is now the richest party in the country. By virtue of being the oldest party in the country the Congress also has no problem with funds, but it is the regional parties which lack any kind of funding. In Meghalaya the Congress also still has a large following and there are Congress loyalists in almost every constituency, but the regional parties do not have that kind of benefit or vote bank. Their success solely depends on the charisma, the influence and of course the kind of money the candidate has. Even West Khasi hills which used to be HSPDP bastion or the Lion’s den as some would like to call it, sent the HSPDP candidates packing this time even from Nongstoin.
In preparing for the next election; the regional parties would have to relook at the organisational structure of the party and incorporate elements which will ensure that the party remains alive and kicking throughout the five year period and not (like Rip Van Vinckle who) wakes up only during election time.
It is time for soul searching for all the regional parties. The urgent need is to rediscover what the party stands for and what their ideology is because right now it seems like the regional parties are no different from the national parties. What do the regional parties really mean when they say that they are trying to fulfil regional aspirations? What is so unique about the community according to the regionalist? And more importantly where do they stand vis-à-vis the future of a democratic India? After having done with the ‘what’ part of the question, the next question is ‘why’? Why do they feel that the community needs protection? And protection from what is another question.
Then the other question that needs to be addressed is how identity politics is going to fit in pluralistic and democratic country like India?
After the parties have done with the two questions, another problem is that we have too many regional parties and so many saviours of the Jaitbynriew who are trying to outdo each other. The strength of the UDP is on collective leadership, but leadership in the other regional parties like the HSPDP, the KHNAM and the PDF centres around an individual. Sometimes these charismatic leaders get carried over by hype. Take for instance the lone KHNAM MLA who refused to be part of either side of the house. In a parliamentary democracy you can either be part of the treasury bench or the opposition, you can either be for or against the government as of now there is no third segment in the House.
When it comes to the BJP, the party did not win big in Meghalaya and as a matter of fact in spite of all the hype the party’s performance is much worse than expected. The leaders expected that the party would at least win more than ten seats of the 59 seats contested in the election to the Meghalaya state assembly, but to everyone’s shock the party only won two seats.
The party had expected to do better in the last election and the party’s in charge of Meghalaya KJ Alphons had moved from corner to corner of the state to another campaign for the party but that did not bear fruit at all. In spite of BJP national leaders from ministers to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to campaign for the party’s candidate, all the efforts proved futile when only two candidates won the election.
A proper analysis of the election result will also help us realise that the party has not only performed very badly, but in fact the BJP did not win any seat at all in the last election to the Meghalaya state assembly. In spite of winning only two seats it would be correct to say that the BJP score in the last election is zero. The party in fact did not win any seats at all.
The two candidates who have helped the BJP win the two seats are on a winning strike anyway. They have won almost all the elections that they have contested. A.L. Hek and Sanbor Shullai have been winning from their respective constituencies no matter which party they contested from. In the past Sanbor Shullai has won as an independent candidate and also as an NCP candidate too, to represent his constituency in the state assembly. He even succeeded in getting his nephew elected as an MDC, the office that he had vacated last year.
A.L. Hek won his election on a BJP ticket and then resigned and joined the Congress and contested the election as a Congress candidate and won the election. And again last year he resigned from the Congress and contested from the same constituency on a BJP ticker and came out successful again. It is therefore safe to say that the duo won the election only because of their personal influences and charisma. The BJP had nothing to do with it.
This is more apparent when all the BJP candidates in the state including some of the sitting MLAs lost their seats in the election yet the Hek – Sanbor duo still managed to get through in spite of all odds and in spite of the adverse campaign against the party. This only confirms that their wining is of their own making.
Yet in spite of performing very badly in the election, it seems that the BJP is not so much worried at the party’s poor performance. So why is the BJP still in a celebrative mode especially during the government formation in spite of doing very badly in the election?
The party in fact has no reason to cheer about the last election because it has lost from all the constituencies that it has contested except two. The party’s Congressmukh (Congress-free Meghalaya) propaganda also did not work because as predicted the Congress still emerged as the single largest party in the state. Although the party was not able to wipe out the Congress in the election the only consolation for the BJP is that it has been able to defeat the Congress in government formation and to install a Congress-free and NPP-led coalition government in the state. Obviously the BJP although it was defeated in Meghalaya found solace only on its NDA partner’s victory. BJP still has a long way to go if at all it is going to win in Meghalaya but is Meghalaya also going to be the beginning of the fall of the party?