By Our Correspondent, TNT News | Jan 19, 2018:
With the announcement of the poll dates in Meghalaya, election fever has kicked in with people all hyped up to vote for a new group of leaders who will lead the state in the coming five years.
With elections declared for Feb 27, the parties in the fray in Garo Hills have shown confidence in the run up to the polls, with most boasting of achieving a single majority in the August house.
For now here is a quick look at the parties that are in the fray from Garo Hills and how they are expected to fare
CONGRESS: The Mukul Sangma led Congress has seen a downslide in the support base in the state though it is by far the strongest party overall in the state. The party in Garo Hills features stalwarts in Meghalaya politics, including the CM himself, education minister Deborah Marak, former CM Salseng Marak, Clement Marak, Zenith Sangma to name a few. The party, despite the setbacks it has received in the past year, is still strong and is expected to still be the dominant force in the coming elections, though with a huge spiral in the number of seats.
Strengths – Leadership, organization, reach
Weaknesses – Corruption, weak central leadership, anti incumbency
National People’s Party (NPP): Most people in Garo Hills had written off late PA Sangma’s new party after it only managed to win only 2 seats in 2013. However, the party has shown that it has taken the results with a pinch of salt and worked on its basics. The result has been an upsurge in the popularity within the state and can be seen through the growing presence of the NPP in Khasi and Jainita Hills. The party will be hoping to prove detractors wrong and will definitely look to be the single largest party in the state.
Strengths – Focus on youth, grassroot development, alternative to Congress in state
Weaknesses – lack of experience, seat allocation problems, CM candidate issues
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Once considered a non starter for a Christian dominated state, the BJP has grown monumentally despite the negative feedback it has received for its policies. Beef ban, pro Hindutva stance, demonetization and GST had all created anger against the party despite of which the party has kept growing in strength. The social media machine of the party has definitely helped the saffron party get a foothold which it will be looking to capitalize on the gains. Added to this, the Modi wave and planning by national president, Amit Shah will also look to add magic. It is, however, likely to be hurt by the campaign of being deemed an anti-Christian and minority party.
Strength: Party organization, central leadership, coordination
Weakness: seen as being anti-minority, no CM candidate projection, multiple candidates
United Democratic Party (UDP): The United Democratic Party (UDP) is the other regional party of the state that has been seeking to imprint its presence in the Garo Hills. The party has been viewed mainly as a Khasi Hills based party which has played a negative part in its development in Garo Hills. The party has time and again denied its Khasi based stance and has ensured growth of its workers in the grassroot levels though it is still doubtful as to whether the same will convert to seats.
Strength: Local roots, growth in membership
Weakness: Limited presence, lack of leadership, absence of big names
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP): The former party of the late PA Sangma is a late entrant to this year’s election fray though through former state president Sanbor Shullai and Mendipathar MLA – Marthon Sangma, the party played a pivotal role in the last government. New party president, Saleng Sangma has been working on selecting candidates for the upcoming elections and the party has also been boosted by the entry of South Tura MLA, John Leslee K Sangma. However, the party’s unpreparedness is likely to hamper its chances at serious attempt at doing well.
Weaknesss: Late entry, absence of sizeable numbers, no vision for state yet
Garo National Council (GNC): The party which has been fighting for a separate Garoland state is also likely to be the dark horse in the coming polls. The party appears strong mostly in the South Garo Hills region, where it is expected to do well.
Strength: Youth, Garoland demand
Weakness: localized support, lack of experience
Independents: Independents are expected to play a major role in the coming elections often to the extent of winning or spoiling the party for the biggies. Most of those who win will generally align themselves with the ruling party or coalition. The number of such winners is, however, likely to see a decline.
The upcoming election is expected to be one of the most turbulent ones in the history of the state mainly because other parties are growing at the cost of the Congress. That growth has also meant that more ticket aspirants have come to the forefront and can make or break a party. For the people however, the onus will be on development and issues related to rampant corruption that has been an eyesore.