Wednesday, May 29, 2024

VPP is overselling and NPP clutching at straws


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By Benjamin Lyngdoh

The fight for the Shillong Lok Sabha seat has surpassed expectations in terms of interest shown by the voters and the efforts being put forth by political parties. Meghalaya politics has migrated to a different level. In the past, the nature of debates and arguments in its MDC, MLA and MP elections was better than in most Indian states. The voters always viewed the political arguments intellectually and the political parties took a moderate line while presenting their case. Now, the gloves are off and punching below the waist is becoming the norm. The personal political attacks are on the rise. This change started in MLA election 2023 and by all indications things are only going to get more politically nasty in the coming years. The reason for this is twofold – the sudden and stormy entry of Voice of the People Party (VPP) and the positioning of National People’s Party (NPP) as the only party which can govern Meghalaya.
The VPP has the advantage of freshness and newness in the current MP election and this will continue till at least the coming Autonomous District Council elections. Whatever they say and claim from the election platforms is appealing to the voters as the truth. This is the sole reason for the enormous support it is receiving. However, even the truth has to be tested. The testing of a political truth is most unpredictable as in the end every politician would like to be in power. It is easy for VPP to make tall claims as it is not in government. The real test of the ability and capability of a political party is when it has the responsibility to govern. It would be fascinating to see VPP govern so as to prove if they are for real or just a puff of smoke? On the other hand, the conundrum and desperation of the NPP is understood. Politics is about voters’ perception and the underprivileged voter who earns from hand to mouth has turned away from the NPP. This can be gauged from the attendances in their meetings particularly in the rural hamlets. Amidst the decline, it is only recently that NPP has really gone in aggressively against the VPP in its campaigns with Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong being the spearhead. There is an air of desperation in NPP campaigns and if Ampareen Lyngdoh were to win it would entirely be due to Prestone Tynsong’s solo charge.
The VPP is for local consumption only. Even if it wins the Shillong seat it will be of little significance in terms of challenging legislations that would adversely impact upon Meghalaya. The most that it can do is dissent at the national level and sell it locally for even more electoral gains. This intended or unintended political approach of VPP is playing out well to its advantage. In the grand scheme of things, whatever the result for VPP in the Shillong seat it can leverage on it for immediate gains in the ADC elections. The thrust of VPP in the MP election is a vehicle to help them do well and carry through in MDC and MLA elections.
These developments present a concern for NPP. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. This explains the aggression and the emotion with which the NPP has been campaigning vigorously. At an election meeting at Mawlai, Prestone Tynsong projected the constituency as the roads infrastructural link between old Shillong and new Shillong. How that would work out geographically is anybody’s guess. It is a perfect example of clutching at straws. But, that is not the end of NPP desperation. CM Conrad Sangma recently said that NPP is a part of NDA but north-east India comes first. Interesting, as Assam the economic power house of north-east India is saffron through and through. The biggest problem for the NPP is that it is being viewed as a core group partner of the BJP.
VPP is riding high on the back of some intelligent and well-meaning teachers. VPP would not have been so popular with enormous degree of acceptance and support if it were not because of the teachers in its fold. This explains why the NPP has been trying to ban teachers from political participation to the extent of presently taking the matter to the Supreme Court. If the ruling were to go against the teachers then the VPP backbone would be broken and the Party too would come crashing down. The hopes and dreams of the underprivileged voter might just come to an untimely and heartbreaking end. It is basically for such reasons that overselling is best avoided.
While VPP continues to oversell itself, the NPP situation in the immediate future is troubling. BJP did not give up the Shillong and Tura seats out of love for NPP. It is a give and take political arrangement. Expect some plump and high positions for Meghalaya BJP in MDA 2.0 after the results are declared on June 4, 2024. Further, NPP will be forced to push the BJP’s agenda in Meghalaya. These include issues like one nation, one election, CAA and UCC, etc. How CM Conrad Sangma would be balancing these issues would be intriguing. Would he buckle under pressure or fight?
The VPP is clear with its vision and mission. It continuously talks about a better, new and sustainable Meghalaya. It projects itself as the hero of the Khasi-Pnar community. However, how it would attain its vision is not clear. Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong asked VPP about its blueprint. The VPP replied to this by saying that its blueprint is the rule of law and justice, etc., while even quoting the United Nations. It is to be noted that what VPP projected as its blueprint was actually not so, rather, it was a statement of values that they uphold. In actuality, a blueprint basically refers to a plan of action or strategy or framework on how the vision would be achieved. Interestingly, after the blueprint reply of VPP, NPP did not raise the issue anymore. Did Prestone Tynsong also mistake values for a blueprint? Is NPP so poor in understanding and differentiation of terms? At least VPP has stated its values as rule of law, etc. NPP finds it difficult to even state its values with so many political appointees under its fold and acquiescing with the BJP ideology, etc. Otherwise why would the two parties stand on the same platform? However, credit must be given where due. The NPP is very good at marketing and presenting a feel good factor to the voters.
In the final analysis, the most important day for Meghalaya vis a vis the 18th Lok Sabha election is not April 19, 2024. The actual red-letter day is June 4, 2024. For on that day the political scenario of Meghalaya would change drastically. The VPP would have to deliver on its tall claims and promises and the NPP would have to deal with a very uncomfortable relationship with the BJP. Meghalaya politics has never been this interesting and intriguing. Further, it is bound to continue that way for at least into the foreseeable future.
(The writer teaches at NEHU; email: [email protected])


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