Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Is 2013 Assembly election for change or change?


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By HH Mohrmen

The next general election may be a little more than a year away, but hectic preparations for the same is going on at every level. Contenders vying for party tickets are already busy making contacts to ensure they are allotted party tickets and at the party level negotiation is already going on to form pre-poll alliances and even mergers like in the case of the UDP and the KHNAM. As for the prospect of the merger of the main regional parties in the state, I can only say it is not the first time that regional parties have entered into alliances or merged before the elections and I will not be surprised if the supposed merger is not unanimous and a new party emerges out of nowhere.

Mergers or alliances are made with only one intention in mind and that is to grab power and more power after the election. The welfare of the people is never on the radar of our leaders when pre-election alliances are made. To the question why is the proposed UDP-KHNAM merger hitting the rocks, the answer is because the leaders only think of themselves and not for the betterment of the party and the state. Leaders are not willing to sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of a united regional force, a force that the Congress party will have to reckon with. A united regional party will be able to help the state have a successful democracy. Ultimately the question in every leader’s mind is – it is not what good it can bring to the state, but rather what’s in it for me? Politicians of every hue share this common trait. In their order of priority, they would first look for what is of interest to them, and then may be the interest to their relatives, friends, supporters and the last in their order of concern is the public.

The more worrying trend in the state politics is the increasing number of businessmen joining politics today. The tendency of rich people with little or no education joining politics which started in the Jaintia Hills District is now making inroads into the hallowed halls of the state assembly. If the government in both the state and the central government accord top priority to providing education to children I don’t see any reason why we should not insist that candidates to the legislative assembly should at least be degree holders from a recognized university. One’s worst fear is that the numbers of MLAs with no university degree but plenty of money will only increase after the 2013 election.

There are two reasons which will help increase the numbers of rich people joining the state assembly. Firstly, the neo-rich with little education from Jaintia Hills have already occupied seats in the august assembly and their numbers will only increase. This brand of politicians has only one interest and that is to expand their business and being in power in the government will definitely help. This will only inspire more coal mine owners from other areas of the state to plunge into the electoral fray and try their luck in the next general election because lose or win, they have nothing to lose. Don’t be surprised if a business tycoon from West Khasi Hills with lots of money and with little or no education dares to take on the might of the alpha male lion right in the lion’s den. I don’t know much about West Khasi Hills but my guess is there are plenty of rich-semi-literate potential candidates from the District who will try to buy their way to the assembly. With forest cover dwindling in the West Khasi Hills it will not be a surprise if the election 2013, will be the last time people will hear the lion roaring “ha u sing” in the last bastion of the lion (HSPDP)- the West Khasi Hills.

In Garo Hills too, coal mine owners or business tycoons will be inspired by their counterpart from Jaintia Hills and try their luck in the next Assembly election. While 2013 will be the time when the neo-rich from elsewhere in the state will test the waters of state politics, for the rich, the semi-literate but powerful people of Jaintia hills it is time to increase their power, influence and control. There are rumours doing the rounds in the district now that, Jaintia Hills will have 11 MLAs after the 2013 election. If you think that is absurd and ask how a district with 7 constituencies can to produce 11 MLAs? Well; if everything goes as the rich politicians of the district plan then there will be 11 MLAs of Jaintia origin representing the different constituencies of the state in the next assembly.

While the people are as usual busy with their daily chores and the election which is still about a year and three months away is not in their consciousness, the prospective candidates to the ensuing general election already have an understanding among themselves and have even made arrangements among themselves. In the new reorganization of constituencies Sniawbhalang Dhar’s new constituency includes new villages from Nartiang to Khanduli and Draison Kharshiing ex MDC and MLA from the area is expected to be a strong contender against Sniawbhalang, but the young, rich politician already made sure of securing the seat by having an understanding with Kharshiing who will no longer contest from this constituency and with the backing of the rich-man’s club in the district will now contest from Nongkrem constituency. As for ECB Bamon the lone NCP MLA who represents the area now and won the last election with the support of the same club, he has voluntarily run away from Nartiang and will now contest from Mowkaiaw/Laskein constituency. Even before anybody realized it, Sniawbhalang has already made sure that no strong contender is in the fray against him in the 2013 election.

If everything goes as planned Draison will be the 9th MLA from Jaintia hills but the 8th one is JU Nongrum MDC of JHADC who is going to contest from Sohryngkham/Mawryngkneng constituency. But the biggest gamble that the rich-man’s club of Jaintia hills have made will be in the Umroi constituency. Ngeitlang who is Sniawbhalang Dhar’s elder brother and proprietor of N.Dhar Construction Company is planning to contest from this constituency. If we are to remind ourselves Ngeitlang was the person found with money in his possession somewhere in Umroi during the last bye election to the same constituency. He will be the tenth MLA from Jaintia hills and like Nehlang they both are non-matriculate.

But the eleventh MLA from Jaintia hills when the first analysis was done is Nehlang Lyngdoh MLA from Rymbai who will now contest from Umsning Constituency. Lyngdoh has decided not to contest from Rymbai/Khliehriat and another non-matriculate candidate and ex CEM of Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council Hambertus Nongtdu who is also brother of another mining baron and owner of another construction company has declared to contest from the constituency. Unfortunately, many of the current non-graduate MLAs and even Ministers from Jaintia Hills District are yet to make their maiden speech in the august house. So it is for the people to decide if they are going to let rich people with minimum education buy their way to the assembly. Should they vote to bring change or are satisfied with keeping the change that rich candidates dole out during election?

The good news is that a reliable source has confirmed that Nehlang Lyngdoh is going to quit politics and call it a day. It is good news precisely because it was ma Nehlang who had started the trend of rich man with little education contesting election. The trend has overwhelmed the JHADC hall and had even started to make inroads to the assembly. Ma Nehlang’s decision to retire from Politics will serve as a deterrent for other aspiring rich-semi-educated candidates to jump in the fray. By retiring, Nehlang is only stating the obvious; that is does make a good business sense to invest lakhs and even crore of rupees to win an election. Nehlang is not doing himself a favour by joining politics, he stand to lose more by being a politician than by remaining a businessman. If he would have concentrated on his business he would still be the richest man, and his business will only grow exponentially but it took him ten years to realize that politics and business does not mix.

Ma Nehlang Lyngdoh is a good man and a good businessman and that does make him a good politician. One hopes that the rich prospective candidates with little or no education will realize before it is too late that it is not worth wasting money during elections. It just does not pay!

(The author is a social science researcher and an environment activist)


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