ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Meghalaya Elections 2018

A Repeat of 2008

What pushed the National People’s Party to align with the Bharatiya Janata Party that has won only two assembly seats, is the ailment that afflicts all the governments of the small states of the North East. These special category states survive on central grants for as much as 90% of their requirement and are expected to raise the remaining 10%. They, therefore, need a friendly government at the centre.

This article was earlier published on EPW Engage.

Meghalaya now has a new non-Congress government comprising a coalition of disparate parties that fought each other in the polls held on 27 February. The Congress won 20 seats and the National People’s Party (NPP) 19, but, since the other regional parties were unwilling to strike a deal with the Congress to form a government, they teamed up with the party formed by P A Sangma. The NPP was started in 2013 before the presidential elections and is now led by Sangma’s son, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Conrad Sangma. Meghalaya is now looking at elections to three more seats. These are: one where election was countermanded due to the death of a candidate in an improvised explosive device blast, the other wherein Conrad Sangma will have to be elected, and the third to the seat that will have to be abandoned by the outgoing Chief Minister Mukul Sangma. He won from two seats, Ampati and Songsak. The NPP might go on to add more members of legislative assembly (MLAs) to its kitty. The parties in the new Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government include the United Democratic Party (UDP) with six seats, the Peoples’ Democratic Front (PDF) with four seats, and the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with two seats each. Two independents have also joined the coalition.

What has surprised observers of this situation in the otherwise sleepy state is the role played by the BJP in government formation. It was almost as if the party had won the elections. The roads leading to the Shillong Raj Bhavan were awash with saffron buntings, Union Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh and BJP President Amit Shah flew in for the swearing-in ceremony, and the “national” television news channels went on and on about a BJP government in Meghalaya, annoying viewers who watched these channels for information on the developments in Meghalaya. Granted that the NPP is a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, the BJP cannot take away from the fact that it was the NPP in which people reposed their faith. The two winning BJP candidates did it on their own steam, and would have won any other party’s ticket that they would have chosen to contest. Both are known for serving their constituents by paying for their hospital bills, helping poor parents buy school books, and also by being supportive generally. People in Meghalaya do not care about lawmaking and what qualities they should look for in a legislator. They are interested in what the MLA can do for them. This is how democracy plays out in the tribal states as a whole.

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Updated On : 19th Mar, 2018
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