Meghalaya Elections will not change anything

So the stone-slinging begins. It is the usual show. UDP will throw shingle at INC who will throw gravel at BJP who will in turn attack UDP. It is unimaginative, reactionary and all about head-line grabbing. Here’s a little info for the political party honchos: Nobody cares. It is cynical to say so but what can you expect? People have been desensitized so much that they have become stone cold to such things. Today the people are bored to death with political fist fights quite simply because these things do nothing to make their lives any better. What does it matter to me if Congress A starts yelling at BJP B? Nothing, not a single part of our own lives or society are made better by it. Rather than bad-mouthing one another, I have a few suggestions for our politicians.

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sure, he is useless, but he is a “good man” (u briew uba bha). Again, I disrespectfully say – who the heck cares?

Firstly, there is a little verb called work. It might not have dawned on you but people look at the work you do. They honestly don’t care about what you think you do for society, they assess you completely in private conversations based on how actually perform. Now I know there are some skeptics out there who will disagree with me. They will raise the objection that people will vote for money, not for work. It’s true on the one hand that many of our villagers still vote along those lines but this is an old ruse which is fast disappearing and which should fittingly be consigned to the dustbin. Many of the people are quickly realizing that the five or six thousand they get for voting, for a particular candidate, hardly justifies the five years of misrule. We must speak out across ideological divide against this and we must repeat it over and over again. Going on this, I remember how in the aftermath of the last election, many Opposition MLAs came out and spoke about how “money power” was the reason for their party’s failure. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it was your own unwillingness to take the Congress head-on that led to your downfall. Not one of them spoke directly about how their party would stamp out corruption, how they would regale the economy, how they would thwart nepotism. It seemed as though many were content to offer themselves as the “lesser evil”. Many were actively trying to use Congress tricks to win but how can you outmanoeuvre veteran player at their own sport? Stop trying to play the same game as the Congress, you will get nowhere.

Secondly, people are dissatisfied with Congress haughtiness and pigheadedness but who will dare break the mould? Will anyone in the UDP, HSPDP, BJP etc stop abusing their MLA privileges? Will they stop blaring sirens, drop their ridiculous escorts, learn how to open doors again with their own hands and not rely on bodyguards? Will our representatives learn how to pay for their own expenses and not bill the government for their imported tea leaves? And another thing, when did this ridiculous habit of putting Dr. in front of your name start? I am begging our MLAs to cease with this practice as it gives academic degrees a bad name. Nobody will pursue their PhD at this rate.

Now there are some people who say this of a politician: sure, he is useless, but he is a “good man” (u briew uba bha). Again, I disrespectfully say – who the heck cares? He is not your pastor or your priest. It doesn’t matter if he appears to be a ‘good man’. Is he doing continuously good work? That should be the criterion. Everything else should be secondary to that. We do not judge based on good work but the image of ‘good’. Sadly, this often leads us to fallacy. ‘Good’ usually translates wrongfully to “looking good”. Even the Khasi word for a beautiful person – bhabriew – suggests that beauty is intrinsically tied up with the notion of being a good person – briew bha. If we think that way then we assume all beautiful people are good, which is not true. The reverse reading of this might also be true though, that a good person is (automatically) beautiful (which is my own personal preference). This obsession with appearance is why our MLAs have this disgusting love of trending fashion and it often looks as though they are in a competition to get on the best-dressed list of Vogue India.

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Another suggestion for our politicians is to seek more involvement with the people. Most politicians seek out only the company of their party chamchas. Too few of our leaders are from and of the people themselves. They are people of the Party not community. Most of them are additionally good party-goers! How many of our politicians would dare break the walls of exclusivity? Today the political parties we have only care about feeding their already bloated followers. The usual train of contractors, businessmen, advisors hitch their chains to the party locomotive. The rest of the people get pittances while these consume large amounts of our resources, public funds. If a layperson seeks to critique the party or government, what happens? An FIR is lodged or some threat of defamation is waved at them. In a democracy, you can say whatever you want. If anyone can so easily stop you from exercising your right it is clearly not a democracy. Some politicians (and NGOs) defend themselves saying that slander and libel are unacceptable and that such things tarnish their good name. Number one, what “good name” are you talking about? Number two, you’re in the limelight, it is part of the job you’re paid to do, stand up and take it like an adult. Words cannot break your bones.

On a final note, what can be done we wonder? It seems like we are doomed to an oblivion of mediocrity and impoverishment. I am not mincing words when I say that this political system we have currently is dangerous to the common man. The model we have is creating rigid barriers between the classes, it is not allowing new opinions and ideas, it is closing up fast and won’t allow new entrants to climb up the social ladder. There’s this little task I’ve been thinking about. Why don’t we start by asking our MLAs and MDCs for an actual progress report along with expenditure? This sounds simple but hardly anyone asks for these. Many people view RTIs as somewhat aggressive (they aren’t actually) but this seems like a reasonable enough request, doesn’t it? After all, we must know what is happening with our money. We might not have a lot of time on our hands but this can be a start towards being more involved with governance. I am writing a letter to my local MLA tomorrow. I pray that you will too. We can coordinate with each other over email so we can share the findings. Let us see what our representatives write back.


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Avner Pariat Written by:

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

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