New narratives of sorts

By Gervasius Nongkseh

The hard fought battle is over. The verdict is pronounced. The mixed feelings sweep across the state. While some exhale a deep sigh of delight most could not stomach the reality. Now all roads lead to the state capital. Some have been observing judiciously this game of thrones while for the hoi polloi or ‘riew paidbah’ the drama does not affect them and their lives go on in smooth sameness.

At the very outset thumbs up to all the victors. This time Meghalaya gave a fractured verdict. Congress just managed to exceed others due to anti-incumbency besides many other factors. The house now hangs in suspension. The biggest king-makers will be the regional parties. Whoever will lead the government will have to tactically manage a balancing act. This is the biggest worry for us voters because from history we learnt that coalition does not work in Meghalaya.

This election has been in the news for different reasons. Big belts camping for months here have used divisive methods  and cash has been pumped in like water. While others fought for the chair others did it just for fame, glory and prestige. During the past months we have seen so many twists and turns, deflections and digressions, truth vs hype and beyond and above money and muscle drowning intellectual oratory and ground issues. Several narratives have been unleashed.

Like the seasonal wind the Modi wave was highly anticipated. But that did not work here for even in the two places –Tritikila and Mahendraganj, where Modi campaigned the candidates  lost miserably. The BJP’s ‘team B’, captured 19 seats but it has nothing to do with the former. Thanks to the undeclared pre-alliance! Whereas, we see the right wind demolishing the red fort in our neighbouring states.

That voters cannot be taken for granted has once again been proved right. About 361 contenders including some big time ministers had to bite the hard chip-dust. It’s a clear lesson that money cannot buy voters.This election might have been over but the lesson it teaches is that ‘voters cannot be taken for granted’ will remain forever in our mind’s eye. The election once again proved the recurring miracle of Indian democracy. One wins and the other loses. After all some have to win. But we should not count the chickens before they are hatched.

Critics and sceptics have often moved to call into question Dr Mukul Sangma’s sincerity, transparency and performance. This author has also warned the CM through an article entitled ‘An Open letter to the CM’ way back in 2013. But it appears that unless a hard lesson is given, nothing seems to work. Hence, it’s bound to happen. Though the CM won in both the contested seats, the mandate across the state clearly points out that he has failed. This is a timely wake-up call for him and the Party to introspect.

The split verdict is a clear indication that the citizens of Meghalaya are annoyed at the government and the performance of some MLAs. This should be a good reason for many to do some overdue house-cleaning.

Interestingly, the results indicate that the Sangma dynasties in Meghalaya remain intact. It’s just the dethroning of one and the enthroning of the other. Even those who fought against dynasty politic nationally here like any opportunist are ready to embrace it gladly.

The regional parties will have to lick their wounds at least for five more years. As they do that, they should reflect that the unpalatable narrow minded issues and under-performing  candidates are now overdue for the dustbin. It’s obvious. It’s not enough to proclaim that it is an indigenous party. Thinking globally and acting locally is more important.

In my article to this paper ( ST February 22, 2018) I have prayed for sunshine in West Khasi Hills and certainly the gods answered when our leaders turn deaf ears to our pligth. Kudos to all or else we would have had to crawl on our bellies for another five years. But the narrow margin of 60 votes in Nongstoin indicates that our chosen leader should not slide into complacency. The electorate expect their leader to aid their aspirations. This constituency has been abandoned for four and a half decades so there is a need for quick development and keeping the engine of rapid growth going. We call upon our leader to perform or perish.

Whoever forms the government had greater responsibility. I just hope and pray that there are no more musical chairs. Horse-trading is a common phenomenon in other parts of the country but at least we haven’t been badly affected by it. Will it happen this time?

History has been scripted and a new chapter in Meghalaya politics has been created. The need to use conventional wisdom besides innovative methods for the over-all development of the state is what remains. Our appeal is that petty interests and lopsided mind-sets should not induce and blind our leaders.

A peep through the window will tell us the ground realities of the state.  There are many tears to be wiped, many stomachs to be filled, many faces to be cheered up. Every part of the state is in need of progress and development. Can the next government be the proponent of “inclusive growth”? Can it be the change we have hoped for?

Shillong is not Meghalaya. Look at Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills or even Jaintia Hills. Particularly consider the remote villages. The basic necessities like drinking water, electricity and roads are almost non-existent. The government cannot rest until it has eliminated the moral obscenity involved in the fact that many of our people go to bed hungry every night or that half of our fellow citizens cannot read or write. If it doesn’t we as voters have the right to call for accountability.

No government in a five-year term can succeed in doing too many things and a government with a vision for its citizens cannot afford to get bogged down by details. It is on the broad canvas that the attention and energies need to be focussed. It is on the core issues and needs of the people that should be concentrated. At the same time important issues such as employment and tourism cannot be overlooked.

Now that the ‘tu- tu main-main’ is over it’s for the new government to ‘perform’ or ‘perish’. I am sure every citizen will agree with these two Ps for any government. The citizens will not expect beyond its capabilities. Rather they expect that it should fulfil their basic needs. Many agenda have been carved before and during campaign. The electors will not forget them easily. If the elected representatives forget then there will be the judgement day.

The fear that we have of our representatives is that the very leader we have placed our trust on becomes ‘the lost leader’ like in the poem of Robert Browning. History tells us that when political supremos starts filling up their bellies and allying with corporate houses, thus forgetting voters who once placed their faith on them then they will dig their own graves.

The herculean task is ahead. The Machiavellian behaviours have to be buried to the bottomless deep. The long ‘train of tins’ beside the water tub in towns and villages should disappear, the dilapidated roads have to be improved, health care and infrastructures should be nearer to people, sustainable energy needs to be considered and many more. These are critical issues that cannot be ignored.

Policies will need a re-look. Mining policies, youth policies, educational policies and the like are so important. The border issues with our neighbouring states and international border are very urgent. The illegal migration will have to be tackled. Far sighted economic policies for all round development will bring our state at par with others. The imbalance of infrastructures, concentrated only in few pockets needs to be amended. Better policy to prevent deforestation will also save our environment.

At the same time, while aiming at fast track development there is another side of the coin, that is, security, peace and harmony; peace from across the border and from within. Our women and children will require better security. Strengthening of law and order to combat crimes against weaker sections of our society and reform of police system will boost up development. Of course the list is endless.

We hope the government will not have an ego mentality or a ‘feel good factor’, but deliver its promises and more. What good is the government if it does not remember its people, its promises and its potentials?  We the people cannot be at peace until we see action.  We will have to keep our fingers crossed at the moment. We hope the sun will rise soon in this far east of the country to fulfil our hopes and dreams.