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It is election year in Garo Hills

By H H Mohrmen

It is election year in Garo hills because voting in the Garo hills region of Meghalaya did not end with the election to the State Assembly and the subsequent formation of the Government in the state. We are already in the end of the first half of the year 2018 but the election fervour is still alive in the Garo Hills. This year election fever continues to grip the region many months after the general election to the state assembly is over. It is therefore a unique year for Garo Hills because election continues to take place at the different parts of the year. 

The by-election to the Williamnagar constituency was necessary after the unfortunate and brutal murder of the NCP candidate Jonathone N. Sangma who died in a bomb attack while he was on the  campaign trail. The election was held with Krinilla R Marak taking on the mantle of her late  husband, but unfortunately she did not win the election. Instead the result was a greater shock to the Congress candidate who was not only a sitting MLA of the constituency but also one of the party’s stalwart in the region.

The result of the recently held by-election which saw the NPP candidate Marcuise N Marak defeating  Congress candidate Deborah Marak has its own repercussions. For the NPP which is leading the MDA government in the state this win is a shot in the arm for the Party and a moral booster for the leaders, who are at the helm of power. It is like a pat on the back of the party leadership. For the Congress, however, this is not only a humiliating defeat but very unfortunately the blame game amongst the party leaders has also begun.

The party leadership are now blaming each other for the defeat, which will further weaken the party’s position in the Garo hills. The question is whether this unfortunate outcome of the by-poll to the Williamnagar constituency also have its impact on the prospects of the Congress retaining the Ampati constituency which is going to the polls soon.

Election to the Ampati assembly constituency is necessitates because former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had contested from two constituencies Songsak and Ampati in the last election and won from both the seats. Dr Sangma decided to retain Songsak and resign from Ampati to give way for his daughter to contest from the constituency which he had represented for many years now. Dr Mukul’s daughter Miani D Shira is in the fray and it remains to be seen if the Mukul  Sangma magic will still be able to rescue the party and help it retain this prestigious Ampati seat. On the other hand it remains to be seen whether Conrad Sangma be able to help NPP candidate Clement G. Momin win from Mukul’s very own backyard. Can Mukul defend his domain or is Conrad going to snatch Ampati and add another feather to his cap? The people of Garo hills and Meghalaya in general will have to wait and see which way Ampati will go.  

The by-election to Ampati constituency will not be the last election in the Garo hills region of Meghalaya this year. Another election will be forced on the people. The situation warrants that if the Chief Minister of the state Conrad Sangma wishes to continue to hold office then he has to be an elected MLA within six months from the day he assumed office. Right now Conrad is still a Lok Sabha MP representing the Tura parliamentary constituency which became vacant after the unfortunate demise of his father Purno A. Sangma.  Conrad will have to resign his position as the MP of the Lok Sabha any time soon and certain areas in Garo Hills will have to go to the polls again.

Conrad will have to be an elected member of the House to be able to continue as the Chief Minister of the state, and since Conrad is not willing to take the risk of contesting from Ampati which is the Congress’ stronghold, he has no option but to find an open seat to contest to become an MLA. The problem is there is no open seat anymore and the only alternative remain is for his sister Agatha Sangma to vacate the South Tura assembly constituency and sacrifice the seat for her brother’s sake.

Agatha too will have no other option but to reign and let her brother contest from the seat, to enable him to continue to serve as the Chief Minister of the state. So there is no end to elections in the Garo hills. After Ampati it will be election in the South Tura which will see Conrad fighting to win the election to become and MLA and continue to be the Chief Minister of the state.

It also remains to be seen if the Congress will make it easy and let Conrad have a cake walk in the election so that he continues to lead the MDA government, or will it fight tooth and nail to defeat Conrad and stop the NPP from dominating Garo hills. If Conrad loses the election to the South Tura seat then it will not only be major embarrassment for the MDA government and the NPP, but it will have a far reaching effects on the future of the MDA government in Meghalaya.

It is obvious now that the battle for Garo hills is also a battle for Meghalaya because whoever controls Garo hills also gains the upper hand and has high chances of  leading Meghalaya. What remains to be seen is where the fight between the two Sangmas will lead the people of Meghalaya and the state in particular. It is therefore a crucial fight between the two Sangma in Garo hills and we have to wait and see who of the two Sangmas will emerge as the master of the Garo hills and a very clear image will only emerge after the by-election to the Tura Parliamentary seat, after Conrad resign as the MP.

The next question is if and when Conrad resigns his membership to the Lok Sabha, then the MP Tura parliamentary constituency will be vacant and we’ll have to wait and see if the Election Commission will conduct a by-election to fill the vacant seat, or not. The reason is that since the general election is approaching and it will be held sometime in the month of May next year, it is up to the EC to decide if it will conduct the by-polls to the Tura parliamentary seat or not. 

It will only be a year from now till the next general election of the country and Conrad has three to four months time to get himself elected as MLA. Hence Conrad’s and Agatha’s decision as to when to resign will be crucial for the EC to decide if it will still conduct the by-election to the Tura parliamentary constituency. 

Come what may the year 2018 is a special year for the Garo Hills region of Meghalaya because the area will be having elections almost throughout the year, from the beginning in the months of February till the year end. And no sooner had the New Year 2019 begin when Meghalaya along with the rest of the country will be on election mode once again so there will election in the Garo hills from the beginning of 2018 till the first half of 2019.

The people of the state, especially the Congress and its supporters are waiting for the results of the general election with their finger crossed. The reason is because the outcome of the general election will definitely have its impact on the political scenario of the state, and that result will determine if the MDA will continue or if a new government will be installed in the state post May 2019.

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