Come February 27, Meghalaya will witness a curious electoral battle. Erstwhile allies are taking on each other and the possibility of horse trading runs high after the results are announced on March 2. Other curiosities mark the Assembly election in the “Abode of the Clouds”. Espousing divergent political ideologies, Union home minister, Amit Shah, and Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee are never known to speak in one voice. Yet the duo is doing so as their political interests coalesce. Small wonder, they have trained their guns and fired broadsides at the same political opponent – chief minister Conrad K Sangma accusing him of corruption. As Shah volleyed charges of corruption against the CM, it is a case of erstwhile political allies turning against each other in the electoral clash. National People’s Party (NPP) to which Sangma belongs, along with BJP made up the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance which ran the government of this hilly state together with the United Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party, and an Independent legislator. Banerjee on the other hand has accused chief minister Sangma of being chairman of CBI and ED for allegedly enriching his family at the expense of the state exchequer. The Trinamool leader is one of the leading campaigners for his party which is the principal Opposition outfit in this state.
Even as BJP hurls corruption charges at NPP, it is forgetful of a fact that ought to have made it have second thoughts. How come it overlooked such shenanigans of the NPP or what prevented it from walking out of the alliance earlier? As one comes down to the nitty gritty of the coming elections, the NPP has the advantage of being the principal coalition partner as it hit the campaign trail. The BJP is contesting in all 60 seats. Once a formidable political entity in the state, Congress is also contesting 60 seats. Though Trinamool is the principal opposition party, its candidates are contesting in 56 constituencies. If a Reserve Bank of India report is anything to go by, Meghalaya is developing at the slowest pace in the country, Shah has contended. But it again focuses on his party’s role in the coalition government it had formed with NPP and others. Border disputes being a sensitive issue among the northeastern states, BJP’s poll promises include settling border disputes with Assam which has a BJP-led government. Permanent outposts along the border for ensuring safety are in the saffron poll manifesto.
In his election speech, Mukul Sangma accused the NPP of being remote-controlled. He underscored his contention by mentioning that it was seen during the border dispute with Assam that land had been given to it owing to the failure of the state government. It has a far more serious charge. It alleged that NPP leadership is being dictated from Assam. Nevertheless, rubbishing BJP’s claims, NPP is contesting 57 seats. It claims to have developed the state in the past five years. Its human development is claimed to be higher than the other northeastern states and West Bengal, a contention which seeks to catch Abhishek on the wrong foot. Few political parties in the country are as adept as BJP in mixing religion with politics. But Meghalaya is a Christian-dominated state and BJP is being accused of being against this religion, a charge to which it does not have an answer.