In the name of the people: Meghalaya elections and political opportunism

By Banshanlang Marwein

The political scenario in Meghalaya at this juncture is of demagogues playing the blame game against their rivals and appeasing the voters through their flawed agenda in order to convince the electorate to vote for them in the 2018 Assembly elections. The political gimmicks are a daily dose that we read and see in the news. These things usually happen when the elections are ahead of us. Of late, political parties are expanding their tents in various parts of the state. We have to understand their hypocrisy and expose it because all this while none of the political parties have shown serious interest in working for the welfare of people. This political patronization should be uncovered and understood on a larger context especially among those who seek to understand the problems besetting the state over the years. The electorate in Meghalaya has never elected unpretentious political leaders or statesmen. We have been electing politicians who are excellent at manipulating emotions and selling a fake agenda during elections. Mudslinging and slandering are the order of the day and we the spectators are witnessing all this political slug-fest.

That the MUA-II Government is facing anti-incumbency should be acknowledged and the Congress party itself should accept this before it is too late. What the Congress Government claims to have done for the state particularly in the last 7 years is indescribably preposterous. The lethargy of the present government stems from the usual adamant attitude of every public representative who does not actually work for the people. The concerns of the people Meghalaya have been undermined. In short, there’s no room for the people to exercise their right in the five yearly transition of power although we are supposedly living in a democratic set up. This is reflected in the issue of the Village Administration Bill.

Meanwhile, the impulsive orators who claim to be the torchbearer of the ‘Jaitbynriew’ are having a tough and hectic schedule in trying to organize themselves for the upcoming elections in their respective constituencies’. They are also busy building up their party because the party loyalists have shifted their allegiance to other parties. They are busy cutting ribbons (especially those who are in the ruling party) to inaugurate various schemes etc. It is sheer duplicity on the part of the current legislators who claims that they are responsible leaders when the border issue with Assam has not been resolved despite several talks. We expected a lot from these ‘Saviours’ of the ‘Jaitbynriew’ to take this issue seriously but are left with doubts and uncertainties about their seriousness in escalating the issue to a higher scale. Meghalaya just celebrated its 45th year of statehood without having a proper border of its own. Meghalaya through its present setup can also be described as a ‘house without a door,’ not to mention other grave concerns such as rampant unemployment, pathetic health care, corruption, downward spiral of education, sports and youth affairs and pathetic power supply that is interrupted several times a day. Even tourism is in the doldrums and other developmental and infrastructural activities have hardly taken off. This happens because government is disconnected from the issues that affect the people.

I just feel that if elections are held every year, then a lot of developmental activities will take place as we can see candidates running helter- skelter to give away what they have for the welfare of the people and are only now expressing their sympathy for the plight of the people.

Parliamentary politics has failed us miserably; the political spectrum has to be relocated otherwise the sanctity of democratic ethos will be washed away without us realizing it. The political parties show their concern only during elections. After the elections their concerns end, especially when they are in power. If this is the attitude, then what is the point of having MLAs who supposed to look after the well-being of the people and to frame necessary policies? 

This upcoming Assembly election is quite interesting because the mighty Saffron party with power derived from the center is trying to get a foothold and even to form the government in Meghalaya using the developmental agenda put forth by Prime Minister Modi. But it is now   more than three years of BJP rule in Delhi. We see no development, no black money returned, no jobs are created. Instead we see failed policies like demonetization, price rise, GST etc., not to mention the hate speeches made by its leaders. The PM and his party members are not keen to punish the cow vigilantes.

Meanwhile the newly emerged Peoples Democratic Front has a lot of catching up to do to get people interested in the political discourse. Incidentally, the founder is yet to publicly reveal his intentions. The regional parties (HSPDP,UDP,KHNAM) who keep talking about indigenous rights, protecting the culture, the Jaitbynriew and so forth have once again come forward to present their elections agenda. How we wish that those agenda will become a reality but as usual these are just dreams that are doomed to be shattered after elections. The Congress party, apart from preventing its own party men from running away from the party, has also to convince people to repose their faith in it yet again. Needless to mention about the NPP which is celebrating the fact that rebel Congress leaders are joining its fold. This speaks volumes of the NPP’s ethical stance because these rebels are the same leaders who were not serious enough in bringing change and working for the benefit of the state while they were with the Congress. This is nothing but a clear case of opportunistic politics.

Against this backdrop, the underlying premise in Meghalaya politics has hardly been about political parties. It has always been about individuals and family members especially those belonging to elite backgrounds. As far as Meghalaya is concerned the political spectrum cannot and should not be seen through the eyes of an argumentative analogy but we should rather look at the strategy with which individuals and parties plan to execute (or have executed) their policy and program.

It is high time that the electorate introspect before electing crooks. It is obvious that we the electorate have hardly elected statesman. We usually elect demagogues with astonishing rhetoric and are easily brainwashed, bought and emotionally blackmailed with end numbers of promises, which are invariably broken after elections. But this time let us ask some uncomfortable questions and keep asking them even after they are elected. The kind of public representatives we elect reflects the system we are in. Let us be educated enough to choose representatives who represent not only their family members or their party workers but those who work for everyone.

The proactive engagement of individuals, civil societies and organizations is imperative to help the uninformed electorate to question the system and elect the right public representatives. Moreover the civil societies and organizations should be neutral and non-partisan in this regard and should not be patronized by politicians. Doing this will take a lot of courage but it is not impossible. The people should be conscious and sensitized about their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy. We should realize that politics at the end of the day is not about power and nepotism and we should shun such dubious practices. Let us not allow the elite class to govern and control the masses. Democracy is beyond that, it is all about the people and their power to question the authorities. It is people who have to decide.