By Tirthankar Mitra
Come February 27, Meghalaya will witness a curious electoral battle. Erstwhile allies are taking on each other and possibility of horse trading run high after the results are announced on March 2.
Other curiosities mark the Assembly election in the “Abode of the Clouds”. Espousing divergent political ideologies, Union home minister, Amit Shah and Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee are never known to speak in one voice.
Yet the duo is doing so as their political interests coalesce. Small wonder, they have trained their guns and fired broadsides at the same political opponent -chief minister, Conrad K. Sangma accusing him of corruption.
As Shah vollied charges of corruption against the CM, it is a case of erstwhile political allies turning against each other in the electoral clash. For National People’s Party (NPP) to which Sangma belongs along with BJP made up Meghalaya Democratic Alliance which ran the government of this hilly state together with United Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party and an independent legislator.
Banerjee on the other hand has accused chief minister, Sangma of being chary of CBI and ED for having allegedly enriching his family at the expense of the state exchequer. The Trinamool leader is one of the leading campaigners for his party which is the principal Opposition outfit in this state.
Even as BJP hurls corruption charges at NPP, it is forgetful of a fact which ought to have made it have second thoughts. How come it overlooked such shenanigans of NPP or what prevented it from walking out of the alliance earlier.
As one comes down to the nitty gritty of the coming elections, the NPP has the advantage of being the principal coalition partner as it hit the campaign trail. The BJP is contesting in all the 60 seats. Once a formidable political entity in the state, Congress is also contesting in 60 seats. Though Trinamool is the principal Opposition party, its candidates are contesting in 56 constituencies.
Seeking to emerge as the main political player in Meghalaya, the BJP has corruption charges hurled against Conrad Sangma. It is coupled with lack of development of the state during his chief ministerial tenure.
If a Reserve Bank of India report is anything to go by, Meghalaya is developing at the slowest space in the country, Shah has contended. But it again focuses on his party’s role in the coalition government it had formed with NPP and others.
Border disputes being a sensitive issue among the north eastern states, BJP’s poll promises include settling border disputes with Assam which has a BJP-led government. Permanent outposts along the border for ensuring safety is in the saffron poll manifesto.
A special task force headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate all cases of corruption is part of the BJP election manifesto. Need to shore up the state’s healthcare system has been pointed out by saffron party campaigners by drawing comparisons with neighbouring Assam where five medical colleges have been built while Meghalaya has no medical colleges for five decades.
Border dispute finds its way in the election manifesto of Trinamool too. Even as it is busy preventing itself being tagged an outsider by NPP, if voted to power, it has promised to scrap the border pact with Assam.
Illegal coal mining plagues the state. The BJP manifesto promises a task force to check it and introduce scientific coal mining.
Headed by Mukul Sangma, the Meghalaya unit of Trinamool has accused the chief minister Conrad Sangma of being soft and ineffectual. The death of 5 residents of Meghalaya and a Assam forest guard last year in police firing has worsened the situation.
In his election speech, Mukul Sangma has accused the NPP of being remote controlled. He underscored his contention by mentioning that it was seen during the border dispute with Assam that land has been given to it owing to the failure of the state government.
It has a far more serious charge. It alleged that NPP leadership is being dictated from Assam. After all, along with NPP, the BJP had been part of Meghalaya Democratic Alliance. The alleged corruption of NPP to which the BJP turned a blind eye to, is contended by Trinamool to be the pay off.
Rubbishing BJP’s claims, NPP is contesting in 57 seats. It contends to have developed the state in the past five years. Its human development is claimed to be higher than the other north eastern states and West Bengal, a contention which seeks to catch Abhishek on the wrong foot.
Few political parties in the country are as adept as BJP in mixing religion with politics. But Meghalaya is a Christian dominated state and BJP is being accused of being against this religion, a charge to which it does not have an answer. (IPA Service)