Garos Hills voters set the agenda

By H H Mohrmen

The state has two seats in the Lok Sabha, the Shillong and Tura parliamentary seat and the verdict is out. People have decided to give one seat to the Congress and the other to the NPP. So its important to decipher the message behind the verdict. In Garo hills the last one decade was dominated by one Sangma family while the other had to be content with being in the Opposition. Well, this time around the table has turned and the obvious outcome of the recent election is that the other Sangma family is in command now. The fight between the two Sangma dynasties for the ultimate crown of being the supreme leader of the Garos or the Achik dominated region is over at least for now and the younger Sangma is now in control. Conrad K Sangma has taken over the sails from his number one rival and emerged as the numero uno and the top leader of the Garo hills region.

It is true that Dr Mukul Sangma reluctantly contested the last general election from Tura parliamentary constituency, because he still wants to remain in state politics. He was hoping that the Congress would come to power in Delhi and the political scenario in the state would change and he would become the CM of the state again, but both the plans did not materialise. Now Dr Mukul Sangma will have to be satisfied with being the Leader of the Opposition and prepare for the next election or think of other options.

Politics is said to be but a continuous struggle to gain power and it is also said that politicians without power are like fish out of water; hence Dr Mukul Sangma a smart politician himself knows that he still has at least two options before him. The first option is to stay put in the Congress and wait for his turn to come, if it comes at all. It is also said that politicians’ lives revolve around elections only. If they win then they will be at  the helm of power and if they lose then they will have to wait for the next five years to complete until the next election. Every politician has a very limited plan and the plan spins around one question, and that is how to survive for the next five years. The plan does not extend beyond five years. So the first option for Dr Mukul is to remain in the Congress.

There is also another saying, “anything is possible in politics,” so the second option for Dr Mukul Sangma is to literarily take a leap of faith of sorts and do the unthinkable.  Will he take a leaf out of his former friend Himanta Biswa Sarma’s book and take along with him some Congress MLAs and join the BJP. They are already four of them in one family, so one third of the numbers of the Congress legislators in the house is not an impossible goal to achieve. This is also precisely the reason why, almost all the adult members of the family join politics and contest the elections so that defection becomes easy and to make the impossible possible. Anything can happen in politics they say, and if this happens then the next government will be a coalition of the two national parties the NPP and the BJP. The NPP will then have no option because it is part of the NDA and if NPP and BJP government become a reality, then poor regional parties will be left high and dry. Well one may say that this is mere conjecture but who can say that this cannot happen.

But as of now the younger Sangma has taken the wind out of of the sails of the elder Sangma and Conrad has not only emerged victorious but as the national president of the party his other achievement was to get the Election Commission to recognise his party as the National party. Conrad has worked so hard for this and he has canvassed in all the states where the NPP had put up candidates. This has borne fruit now. Come what may at least till the next election in 2023, Purno Sangma’s family will rule the roost in the state and particularly in the Garo hills.

But it’s a different story altogether in the Khasi Jaiñtia hills region of the state. The verdict was a surprise not only because the Congress had won the Shillong seat, but it has also won by a huge margin. The question is how can the party with only 19 MLAs and some MDCs defeat the common candidate of the coalition of the regional parties along with the NPP? The more than forty MLAs in the Assembly along with the MDCs in both the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills Autonomous District Councils, should have easily won the seat because the Congress is no match to the MDA.

The election has proven one very important point and that is that the Khasi Pnar people are unpredictable because with the kind of support that Jemino Mawthoh the common candidate of the MDA had, you would expect that the Lok Sabha election would be a cake walk for him. He has the support of most of the MLAs and the MDCs and surprisingly, Jemino lost even in the Constituencies represented by stalwarts of the NPP. Why did Vincent H Pala who was blamed for his non performance as the two- time MP, still able to defeat Jemino who was considered to be a much better candidate in comparison with Vincent?  That is the question that the NPP and its partners in the MDA would have to answer if they really want to learn from their defeat.

Conrad and the MDA should be ashamed of being drubbed by the Congress which is in fact a shadow of its former image. The question is, was it because the MDA partners were not serious in their effort to make sure their candidate wins the Shillong seat? But the most important lesson is for the UDP which has projected its own leader as the candidate for the election. Has the party been betrayed by its partners? If the MDA government is really serious and wants the coalition to survive, it should get to the bottom of this problem and come out with a solution on how to deal with the problem in the future. The truth is, there are black sheep amongst the MDA partners so does Conrad have the courage to punish the errant MLAs and MDCs?

One important lesson that we need to learn from this and the other election before it, is the fact the Garos knows how to vote and they vote en masse. When they decide to vote for Congress, they see that it wins maximum seats from the region and now it is the NPPs turn therefore the party is on a winning spree. Unlike their brethren in the Khasi and Jaiñtia hills, the Garos vote en bloc; they swing like the pendulum of a clock. There is also consistency in the way they vote and that is why they are always at the helm of power.  On the contrary in the Khasi and Jaiñtia hills region, the verdict is always unpredictable. People always give a fragmented mandate especially in the elections to the legislative assembly. Therefore since the beginning of the history of this hill state, Garo hills in spite of having less number of seats in the LA than the Khasi Jaiñtia hills combine, have more say and influence in government formation. That is why we say when the Garos votes the rest of the state takes note.

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