Garo Hills Dist. Council poll
Electioneering in Garo Hills for the 29 District Council seats is yet devoid of the heat and fervour that are normally associated with any election. To a casual visitor to the district it needs to be told that an important election is only a fortnight away.
The usual scene of feverish activities, even in the scale of college election, are nowhere in sight. There are no posters, no banners and not even the blaring of loudspeakers. Only in some places walls have been used to sell a candidate.
Campaigning in Garo Hills is done at a personal level or at best at group levels. A candidate is expected to establish firsthand contact with most of the voters, and try to woo them by distributing favours either on the spot or by making a solemn promise. The ruling Congress (I) which is in power at the State is, it seems, better placed to attract the voters. Small wonder that most of the Garo Ministers, including the Chief Minister, and the MLAs have fanned out to mobilize support in favour of their party nominees.
Garo Hills have always been Captain Sangma’s bastion. At one time it used to rise in one voice at his call. Over the years the vote bank has eroded and, today, he faces a fairly strong challenge from his political detractors who vow by the regional parties. Although the Congress (I) enjoys a clear edge over its rival alliance, it would be a great mistake to write off the regional parties. Even in a safe place like Tura, the Congress prospects appear to be not-too-rosy.
In the prestigious Tura seat it is going to be a straight fight between Mr Godwin Shira (Cong I) and Barthiar Marak (APHLC). Mr Shira, a former HSPDP activist had contested the last general election unsuccessfully from Rongram. His young opponent is the eldest son of former Minister Mr Grohonsingh Marak. In Tura, this reporter gathered the impression that it could be a close race.
But Captain Sangma says with a poise of confidence “everything will be alright soon”. Sitting at his Hawakhana residence, he told Shillong Times that his party was destined to obtain an absolute majority. The Chief Minister, who had returned from Bajengdoba a little while ago, looked relaxed in his silk kurta and pyjana. No, he would not hazard a guess about the results. But he adds that some of the Independent candidates who were expected to win would join the Congress(I) to which they actually belonged. They had filed nominations after the party issued ticket to others.
Poll managers at the Congress Bhavan are hopeful of convincing victory. They claim that the stance of the regional parties on some vital matters relating to the State as a whole would help swing the Garo voters towards the Congress (I).
The regional parties have no office as such. In Tura the main centre of activities is the house of the candidate. A spokesman of the regional party alliance appeared optimistic about its chance.