Meghalaya: Despite COVID-19, elections turn into festive affairs in Garo Hills
Elections in the state of Meghalaya are generally a very dull affair, with most candidates preferring to keep things quiet by making door-to-door visits to garner support for their candidature.
However, the plain belt of Garo Hills, in terms of elections, is vastly different – no matter how big or small, elections turn into festivals.
With elections in the plain belt, the entire procession begins with a display of strength while filing nominations.
Most nominations from the plain belt, including Phulbari, Rajabala and Mahendraganj, would witness hundreds of vehicles with loud chants as a mainstay rather than an exception.
After nomination, the candidates begin proving themselves worthy to represent the people.
The recent visit by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to campaign for the Shyamnagar candidate is an indicator of that point.
Over 10,000 people from all walks of life came to listen to what the CM, local MLA SG Esmatur Mominin and MDC candidate Tarif Ibrahim Sarkar had to say.
Elections in the plain belt also bring out innovative ways of campaigning, with some organising walking rallies to prove their numbers, while others use microphones and sound boxes to get their message through.
The festive atmosphere just cannot be missed, and banners and hoardings are a must.
“The atmosphere in the plain belt during elections is always one of celebration. The people enjoy the fact that they can make or break a candidate. Voting is always high as aware voters ensure they are the last bosses and use their suffrage,” said Phulbari resident SR Sangma.
However, the dark side is the fact that a lot of voters sell their votes. They visit all the candidates in the fray but vote for those who can fill their pockets.
“Some look at it as an opportunity to make quick money. For them, development is a myth, and it’s the only personal development that needs to be worked on. This is wrong, and responsible voting has to be encouraged. How can you ask your representative for development when he/she has already paid you off,” said another resident R.K Saha.
For now, however, the festival continues in full swing – with or without COVID-19.