By HH Mohrmen
While the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) partners are congratulating themselves on winning the Rajya Sabha seat, the regional parties should seriously consider what this victory means for them. What are the regional parties going to gain from this victory? Or are they gaining anything at all from this? One thing is sure though. The victory of the NPP candidate also means advantage for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Delhi because it is only going to add to the numbers of NDA MPs in the house.
After the recent Rajya Sabha election in different states, the NDA at the centre has improved its strength in the upper house. The increase in the strength of the NDA does not augur well for the health of a parliamentary democracy like India. A strong and vibrant democracy is when all its organs are strong. An active and courageous opposition, an independent judiciary, strong bureaucracy and a vigilant fourth estate is the sign of a healthy democracy. Therefore the country cannot afford to have a one sided parliament where a party or one alliance is in the majority in both the Houses. The objective of having two Houses is to ensure that there are checks and balances in the system. But if the government is in the majority in both the Houses power tilts to one side and that is not good for democracy.
From the recent elections the NPP can claim that it has two members of Parliament, one in each House, and the regional parties have none. The new MP like anybody who is fresh from winning an election has so much to promise. But at the end of the day the NPP being a partner of the alliance at the Centre has no option but to toe the NDA line. Hence there will be nobody to speak for the interests, the hopes and aspirations of the people of Meghalaya.
The recent incident in Manipur is a classic case in point. When the government in Manipur was on the verge of collapse, Conrad Sangma the president of NPP not only had to rush to Imphal, but also to Delhi too to save the government. He along with his four MLAs had to violate their own Covid standard operating procedures (SOPs) and refused to be quarantined because they were summoned by Amit Shah to Delhi. What Conrad Sangma did not realise is the glaring reality that this is the way the Modi Government treats the minorities of this country. If the leader of their own alliance has to be at the beck and call of the leaders in Delhi, then it is already clear what the fate of the minorities in this country is. In spite of the fact that he holds the trump card in the game, Conrad still has to attend to Amit Shah’s call and had to reach the capital pronto. And what has Meghalaya gained from all of this? It gets nothing in return. NPP being the junior partner in the NDA will always be treated as one and will be satisfied with small concessions.
For the moment the BJP led government in Manipur is safe courtesy the Meghalaya CM’s intervention. The four NPP MLAs in Manipur are willing to support the government again, but what has Conrad done for the state? Will he be willing to visit Delhi in spite of the threat of pandemic in the interests of Meghalaya? Will he be willing to take the same risks for the sake of Meghalaya? The situation is like the army chief leaving his own post while the battle is raging to attend to other people’s battle. With the kind of bonhomie in the alliance, one is expecting rapid development in the state, but two years have lapsed with no visible change in the state.
The other question is whether the alliance at the centre and the regional level can bring any change especially in the unending interstate dispute between Assam and Meghalaya. Can the bhai-bhai relationship between the two sides translate into action and bring lasting solutions to the chronic border dispute between the two states. When both the BJP and the NPP are part of the NDA at the national level and the NEDA at the regional level, what prevents the two governments from coming together and starting the dialogue to solve the problem. Or maybe the camaraderie is just to grab power and not to solve long pending disputes.
At the state level, the victory of the NPP candidate could definitely be a disadvantage for the regional parties. They have missed the opportunity to punish the NPP for betraying the state and its people on the CAA issue. Now the question is how are they going to answer the public about the controversial CAA? Since all the regional parties claim to have the interests of the region and its people at heart, the question is how can CAA be in the interest of the tribals? Come elections and the regional parties will have a hard time to answer the barrage of questions from the voters especially about this issue.
To give the person his due, the only politician who dared to make his stand on the issue clear is, the MLA of Shillong North the lonesome Adelbert Nongrum. He stuck to his guns that he is against CAA and abstained from voting for any candidate in the fray. Unlike MLAs of other regional parties, Adelbert is clear in his understanding that supporting NPP’s candidate to the Rajya Sabha is supporting the NDA at the centre. One vote may not make a difference but at least he took a stand and he deserves to be respected for that.
The United Democratic Party was in the past blamed to be the Congress B in the state and there are elements of truth in the saying. But now it is obvious that not only the UDP but all the regional parties in the state are playing second fiddle to the National parties. The regional parties are not in fighting mode any longer and they don’t even have a dream of their own. They are not even interested in having a regional voice in the Parliament, so what is left of them? One does not really know what the regional parties want other than playing second fiddle to the National parties. The election to the lone Rajya Sabha seat from the state has also validated the public contention that the regional parties influence ends at Khanapara and not beyond because it is now obvious that they don’t even want to have a representative in Delhi.
This could also be the reason why they are not winning more seats in the elections any longer. In fact even the candidates who won on a regional party ticket did so, on the strength of their personal appeal. Their victory has nothing to do with the party or its ideologies. It is not sure if the public are even aware about their ideologies. What are their ideologies? Is Regional party politics dying in the state? Are we witnessing the demise of the regional party politics in the state?
What are regional parties really for except to gain power by helping others have a major share of power? Or the right question is – Do they even have any ideology? How different are the regional parties from the national parties in the state? The future of regional parties is that they will be just a name. It will only be something superficial, there will be no difference whatsoever between the national parties and the regional parties.
By voting for the NPP MP the regional parties are indirectly supporting the NDA. From now onwards, the regional parties cannot absolve themselves from any wrong policy or wrong doing of the NDA government. Even if they claim that they are not supporting NEDA, but by voting for the NPP candidate to Rajya Sabha, they are one and the same with the NDA now. The regional parties are now in between the devil and the deep sea. They were lured to power and are now trapped in the cage. They have become part of the NDA without even knowing it.