Sunday, May 19, 2024

Kudos to the VPP but who should Meghalaya prefer?


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By Albert Thyrniang

The Voice of the Peoples’ Party (VPP) is quite a sensation. The leaders of the party have drawn huge and passionate crowds in their campaigns in the Shillong seat. The shouts ‘Ha u Prah’ have struck a chord with rural voters. The party has become the darling of YouTubers and social media content creators. Popularity-wise the VPP could win hands down. However, skeptics say money could still play a decisive role. The Illegal coal cash could flow to every nook and corner of the state tells its own story. More than one crore has even reached Arunachal Pradesh.
Irrespective of the voting pattern on April 19 and the results on June 4, the VPP has made massive gains. If it pulls off the impossible the next KHADC and JHADC elections are a foregone conclusion. Even if the November 2021 established party comes second or third, the trick of the government to unjustifiably delay the councils’ polls. But it won’t save the inevitable. It will be a telling humiliation if in Nartiang and Pynursla the NPP lose. It will be an embarrassment if MLAs trail to the VPP in their home turfs. NPP and UDP will feel the heat if they are relegated behind their most hated rival. The Congress at least will have the anti-incumbency excuse. We have to congratulate the party for managing to pull crowds without offering money, free rides, food and drink. Kudos for the relentless focus on clean politics! We need to pat the back of Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit and other leaders for the conviction that elections can be won without money. It appears the public has believed in the philosophy. It looks like the electorate has finally understood the negative impact of money power. It seems a large section has decided not to cast their votes for the candidate who distributes the highest amount. In particular, we could see the youths stay away from the rich candidates and parties. If the VPP does emerge victorious it will be historic. Even if it falls short the beginning has arrived. Positive development will take place. The change of mentality is here.
The NPP has denied the existence of corrupt practices under its regime. The NPP does not agree that Meghalaya is part of India which is ranked 78th out of 180 corrupt countries. The state’s rulers do not believe that Meghalayans are among the 62 percent who have paid a bribe to a public official at some time. The MDA-II government does not go with the report that half of Indians had first-hand experience with paying bribes or using contacts to get services from government agencies. For the NPP and company the VPP need not talk of clean politics because it is leading a corruption-free government.
This author tested it himself. Recently I was at home (Mawkyrwat constituency) due to the demise of my mother. The noble soul was hardly literate but did all she could to educate her children. She used to say, ‘We will not hesitate even if we have to sell the ancestral property for your education.’ We return to the point. A day after the funeral this writer talked to three LP teachers who got their jobs recently. All the three had to pay more than five lakhs to finally receive the appointment letters. One of them had to sell her paddy field. When asked ‘why’ the reply was, ‘Te hap ai bad iawe bad iawe’ (We have to pay underhand to different people). They also stated that they did not think they would have been selected had they not paid the money. They confessed that all candidates paid money to the officials. Here we see that bribes are normalised. They are accepted as a normal practice. To get a government job one has to pay bribes. The government knows it. But it closes its eyes. We hope the VPP will tackle this menace when it comes to power.
The government is turning a blind eye to tyrannical practices because there is corruption at the highest levels. The implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) projects is under the scanner. We need not repeat the observations of the Controller and Auditor General of (CAG). A bit of reality check is sufficient to doubt the success of the scheme. On paper the water connection scheme may be top class but on the ground it is an evident failure, probably due to corruption. When this author inquired from villagers along the Nongstoin-Rangblang road, none said water had come to their courtyard. In Rangblang, a village of more than 300 households, the tanks and pipes still lay dry. So also the surrounding villages! Hope the people of the state are wise and give the VPP a chance to clean up the mess. There is no harm in beginning with this MP election.
The illegal coal mining and transportation scam is unparalleled The beneficiaries could include ministers, MLAs, MDCs, other politicians close to the current dispensation, bureaucrats and police personnel. The utter wasteful expenditure on the 178 political appointees is an open loot from the tiny treasury of the state. The government has no credibility in saying that its mind and hands are beyond reproach. The founders of the VPP have long studied people’s predicaments and have decided to take the plunge prominently forcing clean politics to be a subject in public discourses. The electorate should whole heartedly stand by this party which dares to catch the bull by its horns.
Other motivations for voters in this election are for democracy and secularism. Another win for the BJP and for Narendra Modi is certainly bad for the country. We could see the country taking an anti-democratic and anti-secular path. Many believe Modi is already 80 per cent a dictator. The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal and the freezing of the Congress’ accounts are examples. The misuse of democratic agencies and institutions to tame opponents are other indicators. The accumulation of powers under the Prime Minister is another compelling pointer. The ‘purchase’ of the mainstream media turning them into Modi’s propagandist tools is a serious red flag. If unchecked the BJP could move us to a ‘one nation one party’ nation. We could be bracketed along with North Korea and Russia where the citizens are forced to vote only for one official party. Many already believe that elections in India are no longer free and fair. Results are manipulated. The Chandigarh mayor election recently is a clear instance.
For millions Modi is a deity. They worship him. They mistake him for an infallible god. This is what the BJP loves, for in his name they win election. The BJP’s mixing of politics with religion is a deadly cocktail. Candidates’ campaigns are accompanied by ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants. Communalisation and polarisation is where the BJP excels. The Prime Minister has already dragged Opposition leaders accusing them of cherishing non-vegetarian food (read Muslims) during the Hindu festivities.
Meghalaya should vote to contribute towards saving democracy and secularism in the country. In fact voters should place these two above the ‘clean politics’ push of the VPP for the simple reason that this is a national and not a state election. Besides, transparency is possible only in a democratic and secular set up. In a dictatorship there is no accountability. At the present juncture democracy and secularism are the most valuable assets. Meghalaya should add to the numbers that oppose the BJP even if we think that the saffron party is coming back to power for the third time.
Now, in Meghalaya which are the democratic and secular parties? The BJP is automatically out. The NPP too excluded for the two are now one and the same. Conrad himself has appealed to voters to go for Modi under the NPP’s banner. The UDP and HSPDP are part of the MDA-II in Meghalaya and NDA in Delhi. That leaves only Congress and the VPP. The Congress is part of the NPP at KHADC but it is undeniable that at the national level it is the strongest opponent of the BJP’s Hindutva ideology. The VPP has exhibited religious fanaticism. Hope they learn with time. If the state sends the Congress or the VPP to Delhi it would be great for democracy and secularism. Even in Garo Hills Saleng Sagnma could surprise Agatha because of the NPP’s nexus with the BJP.
The NPP has vowed to oppose the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). This was what the party said exactly on CAB but its MP ended up helping CAB turn CAA. Agatha’s explanation that she voted for the ‘controversial bill’ because the Sixth Schedule areas are exempted confirms NPP’s policy on UCC. If UCC is made to be inapplicable in tribal areas of the state the NPP will vote for it. Just as for CAA, the UDP and HSPDP would not snap ties with their senior partners. So the option for Meghalayans is amply clear.


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