Political Profiteering in Meghalaya

It is of some interest to follow the developments that have been taking place throughout the state in recent weeks. While I write this with regards to news items which have been widely circulated in the Shillong-based media, the other sources of info are word-of-mouth and hearsay. But that should not discredit them, I feel. Anyway the topic I would like to touch on is one of my least favourite of all: INC-BJP politics.

It is now out of the bag that NPP and quite possibly all regional parties within the state are unable to defeat the Congress except with outsider firepower i.e. Hindu Majoritarian Right Corporate Development Engine called BJP. Their inability is not only because of inept and incompetent leaderships but because they are unwilling to be game changers. By this I mean that these regional parties are as moribund in their love of hierarchy, money power and political capture as the INC. They are still trying to beat the Congress at its own game, a game which is already rigged from the start. They have no ideology worth mentioning (and no accountability to the people) so they continue this farce which has two big seasoned players within it as team captains – the national giants, BJP and INC.

Common people have been losing out for a very long time now. Congress is not the answer but neither is BJP. However, depressingly, I must admit that very few people who read this will want to effect change. It is primarily because there is a caste system already in place in Meghalaya. The privileged set who will read this (upper and middle class) already have political allegiances. The rich actively pursue them for more wealth and power while the middle class are happy to suck up if it means they get government jobs. It is that easy to bait them. Real change which should come from below is going to be ignored and disregarded as usual. I hope I am wrong though.

Democracy is not for Mukul or Purno’s family to use as a magic whip. It is not for Hopingstone’s kur nor for retired or retiring IAS/ MCS officers and their progeny. It should start from the ground not the clouds. I saw the assets that the candidates have on myneta.com and I think about the poverty, strife and lack of “development” that Garo Hills is reeling under. It seems such a contrast for people to come from such poor areas and live such glamourous lives. Or maybe it is just me who thinks it too unfair?

I cannot imagine why Conrad Sangma would need BJP support if he is such a stalwart and all-round ‘good guy’, someone people already look up to, someone who is as seasoned a politician (if not more) than Sonowal or Nalin Kohli. Today many of the opinions I read on Shillong related forums are dangerously Right wing. For the sake of strengthening their bases, our politicians don’t mind making all sorts of alliances. It is very obvious that the INC has become lazy and it is also obvious that much of this is political positioning for 2018 which is fast approaching. Today I hear many rumours from people who whisper about election tickets and secret canvassing. Most are just talking idly but some are serious, all are people who come from privileged backgrounds, none come from humbler backgrounds. Today the BJP is trying to reach out to the state’s many disheartened (politically shallow) people – professional, semi-religious, self-righteous development mongers – who are tired of the way things are within the Congress regime. This is tragic because they are quick to choose BJP to swat INC only because they hate the Congress not necessarily because they believe in the tenets upheld by the BJP.

This path is dangerously narrow. People might be happy to imagine a future of bipartisanship but I am not. If you look at how ‘outsiders’ Sanders and Trump struggled for party legitimacy despite popular backing you can gauge the vast gap between the official dictat of the party and grassroots aspirations. This sort of thing would be very common in India should regional parties disappear. The ‘national’ interests would be deemed more important, the ‘party leadership’ would decide everything for everyone just like Nalin Kohli did recently for the Garo Hills unit. The NPP, UDP, HSPDP (matrilineal parties) need to learn from patrilineal Amma, Didi from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal respectively. Please forgive the crude joke but I could not resist. Wonder what Michel Syiem would say to that?

The BJP aka RSS political wing has been very quick to slap anyone who criticises them with lawsuits, defamation cases and recently an FIR for hate speech was lodged against Dikkanchi Shira. Pravin Bakshi, please watch Ram Ke Naam by Anand Patwardhan. I understand you have to follow protocol and all these wonderful things but that aside History shows us otherwise if you really look at it well enough. Anyway, that digression aside, it seems that I have been unfairly bashing the BJP. Please don’t take me to be “anti-national” and a traitor to bharat mata. I also equally despise the Congress which has made our society politically enslaved and widened inequality. The Congress is as corrupt as the BJP is power-crazy, both are two sides of the same coin. We need a new coin. We need many new coins.

The rest of the world is desperately trying to find the “third way”, an approach to government which is fairer, more accountable and driven towards welfare. In Meghalaya we should be ahead of that curve. Instead we are content to be led by the greater currents and patterns that define Indian politics today. There are some reasons for this which are greater than us of course but politically we are capable of many things but we refuse to acknowledge our own powers. Our older forms of polity and society are in many ways vastly superior to anything “modern” that India can teach us, let us re-look at them, we must not worship them though. Perhaps the most important thing to be in this day and age is sacrilegious, we must refuse governance through “experts” trained in some Mussorie cabin, we must refuse hierarchies of family and office, we must refuse to let anyone frighten us with legal jargon. Let us start taking a little more responsibility.

 

 

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Babet Sten Written by:

Babet Sten is a researcher and occasional political commentator

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