Meghalaya’s regional parties should stop playing the victim

Social media is such a strange place. It allows us to peek into other people’s lives, it allows us to vent. It suggests accessibility and openness. Many of our own politicians have taken to it readily especially among the younger set. In a recent post, ex MLA (UDP) Jemino Mawthoh expressed his confusion and, may I say, dissatisfaction, with how people seemed to be opposing his party’s alliance with the BJP and others. To sum it up, Mawthoh’s main argument was about how “the electorate [that] reject[ed] us” should not blame the party for allying itself with more powerful entities when they themselves (the electorate) had not given the UDP the necessary numbers to capture power. I think this is a fair summary.

This sort of argument shrugs off the responsibility of the failures and weaknesses of the party election plan from its own machinery, its own workers and places it on the voter. It is your fault, voter, your fault. Now how did Mr. Jemino Mawthoh lose his constituency? That is a worthwhile question that needs research and analysis for future planning. But maybe I am being optimistic that such a thing will come about. Mawthoh laments the fact that the UDP lost “four prestigious (Shillong) constituencies” to the Congress. So firstly, in the game of accruing numbers, Rambrai, Songsak, Amlarem is as “prestigious” as any Shillong constituency. Getting that into our heads will go a long way to ensuring victory. Numbers is what counts and numbers is what the UDP didn’t seem to be serious with. How many Garo candidates did they lend their full support and hard work behind? In all seriousness, it didn’t seem to have much of a tantalising appeal there even if they did. That is not the fault of the voters, it is the fault of the planners. The NPP (a fledgling party) had no problems calling people on board from across the state. Our cute little state parties don’t seem interested in the left hand side of the state. HSPDP, a party that is strongest in the West Khasi Hills can’t even cross over and get Garos on board. It is just a hop and a skip away!

The NPP traverses freely between Shillong, Tura, Nongtalang, Shella etc while our regionals (which are the oldest parties in the state) are having second thoughts on whether Garo Hills is actually a part of the state! Part of this, I think, is because regional parties (with some exception for the UDP) are parochial, religiously conservative, short-sighted and odiously racist. In a widely circulated Whatsapp video, the first thing Ardent Basawiamoit (then-HSPDP) did on hearing about his loss was to give a speech blaming the residents of Madanrting (“khyllah jait”) for his loss. Forget about the fact that most of the people who voted against him were Khasis, let us blame the dkhar voters.

Deeply ingrained ideas about dkhars and khyllah jaits conspiring against Khasis are so common place it should be something that is rectified by this current government if it wants to ensure a long life for itself. The anxiety about being ruled by Garos (Mukul now Conrad) is something many ordinary Khasi (Shillong) people harbour and share openly among themselves. The racism in their opinions is so ripe, it attracts actual flies to the feast! Of course, people don’t mind Conrad so much because he is a “khynnah Edmunds” (past pupil of St Edmund’s). I don’t know if this is true but it shows us how selective our prejudices are when it comes to people. Mukul Sangma, for all his flaws, is not from a political family, he is a self-made man. But the message is clear: as long as someone comes from a certain strata then anything goes. Before I round this point off, I want to say that I do not entirely disagree with Basawiamoit. There is a conspiracy going on. However it doesn’t involve the small business owners and chana wallas of Madanrting. It involves the barra people in power at the Centre today. It involves the dkhars from Delhi who see it fit to interfere in this state’s political life. That is the real tragedy.

Going back to the first point regarding Mawthoh, will there be a survey done to ask what was wrong with the rejected UDP candidates? Or is that too painful? Rangbah shnongs and Shnong committees might have loved them but this is not a serfdom, people make their own assessments nowadays. It must be money power, yes, that is the answer for sure! Let us forget research and surveys and just assume that is the reason. It must be money power that led to the defeat of a number of sitting MLAs, many of whom are very wealthy. More importantly, will any of this lead to a change in strategies for these people? Mawthoh seems to forget that the loss of the “prestigious constituencies” was somewhat cancelled out by the wins of new faces from Khliehriat, Mookaiaw, Amlarem. This is a good sign. In the case of the first two, they are young people who have taken on the mantle for the party. The NPP won so many seats because of the youth vote, I think, though more research needs to be done to ascertain this. Maybe that is something all these political outfits need to look at. The youngest person in the new cabinet is 29 years of age (Kyrmen Shylla), the oldest is Prestone Tynsong (52). It seems that if you are perceived as being antiquated and out-dated you will probably lose.

Work does not stop just because one is out of power. Working to get people their dues and rights does not need a political office. The many problems of the government and bureaucracy are no small tasks to remedy but that is why we need a new way of doing things. We need Democratic Socialism (I don’t know why I still have to qualify this) more than ever now to unwind the nasty knots that previous decades of mismanagement and corruption have left for us. I and a lot of other people are skeptical of this government because many of the faces are the same and many of the failures cannot be erased simply by joining a new team. To simply wait and watch until it is too late is repeating the mistakes of the past.

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Avner Pariat Written by:

Avner Pariat is a poet and chronicler of Khasi Jaintia Hills.

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