The dates for the 2018 election to the Meghalaya State Legislative Assembly has been announced and people are anxiously waiting for February 27; when they will push the button to vote for the candidates and the parties which will form the next government and will remain till 2023 when the term of this august house will end. But this is going to be an extraordinary election when one considers the extraordinary pre-poll developments which took place few months before the election.
Never in the history of this young state did such incidents happened and that too few month before the election. The most dramatic of them all is the mass exodus of sitting MLAs from one party to another which is not yet over. The party which was hit the hardest in the large-scale defection of MLA is the grand old party in the country–the Congress. Four MLAs of the party resigned their membership to the house and defected from the Congress to the National People’s Party and one went to join the party which he help formed when he was still a Congressman.
But the startling incident which took everyone by surprise was the decision of the three Congress’ stalwart to hang their boots and retire gracefully. This is bolt from the blue because it is known that politicians never retire but just fade away with age. The politicians are known to contest the election till the time that people stop voting for them and this is the first time in the history that altogether three Congress’ stalwarts decided to call it a day and quit election altogether even when they are still winning.
The other pre-poll development was the story that is doing the round which says that the CBI is hot on the trail of those involved in the infamous white-ink scandal in the state. For the uninitiated this has to do with the selection process of hundreds of candidates for the post of lower primary school teachers in all the L.P schools in the state. Based on the findings; the court ordered the scraping of the entire recruitment process altogether. Prima-facie it was found that names of selected candidates were removed and replaced by the names of those favoured by few politicians using white correction fluid. It was also reported that few politicians named by the court have already get anticipatory bail fearing of their being arrest during the election.
And the last such incident which Dr Mukul Sangma’s detractors termed as personal vendetta was the transfer of the proposed Block Development office in the East Jaintia Hills from Wapung to Lumchnong. Earlier an ordered was issued by the government that a new block office will be created and the headquarters of the same will be at Wapung a village which is between Jowai the district headquarters of West Jaintia Hills district and Khliehriat which is the headquarter of the newly created East Jaintia Hills district.
To begin with this decision was a farce because the villages which fall in the block are close to Khliehriat and are easily accessible to Khliehriat block. But there is another part of the district which is at the receiving end of development in the newly created East Jaintia hills district. Lumchnong area which comprises of villages under the eleka Narpuh and Rymbai is an area which is at the receiving end of developmental activities and most of these villages are at the frontline of the Indo-Bangladesh border.
The region was on the spotlight recently when a national media toured the area and brought to light the lack of development in the villages throughout the border. Road and communication to these villages especially to villages like Huroi, Hingkaria, lejri, Lahalein and other are in a pathetic condition and vehicles can reach these villages during winter only. In summer these village are inaccessible by any means of transport so people have no other option but to use head-loads to bring basic commodities to the villages.
The truth is; had it not been for the service provided by their neighbours from across the border, the people in the area would have to face hunger at time. Hence it is no surprise that the people of the area have much more affinity to Bangladesh and even for the medical needs they simply cross the border. In such a situation it is of no surprise that people in the area use both currencies as medium of exchange.
One would think that the government has done the right thing by moving the new block to the much deserving area to cater to the desperate need of these border villages, but not for the opponents of the Congress who call it a political gimmick and blamed the Chief Minister for using it as a vendetta against the incumbent MLA of the area who has defected from the Congress-led MUA II government.
These unusual pre-poll developments will definitely have an in impact on the outcome of the election to the assembly in Meghalaya this time around and hopefully the outcome will have a positive impact on the entire state.
Mohrmen is a freelance writer and environment activist based in Jowai, Meghalaya. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org