Autonomous District Councils in Meghalaya appears to be springboards to Assembly. Although the National People’s Party was able to rope in five Congress MLAs; Rowell Lyngdoh, Prestone Tynsong, Sniawbhalang Dhar, Ngeitlang Dhar and Commingone Ymbon, but the party is yet to make public the names of candidates who have defected from the MUA II alliance for fear that they attract anti defection law. It is an open secret that altogether seven incumbent Congress MLAs have deserted the party’s camp and are only waiting for the time to join the new parties.
Last week another Congress leader P N Syiem; resigned from the membership of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly to enable him to lead the party he help started a few months back. Alexander L Hek former BJP MLA who then joined the Congress and is currently Congress MLA is also all set to return to the saffron party and contest on a BJP ticket. The Congress is witnessing a defection of its MLAs in all direction and in a quick succession.
As if the exodus of seven incumbent Congress MLAs from the party is not enough; to add salt to the wound; the decision of three other senior MLAs’ to quit election and call it a day will also have a huge impact on the performance of the Congress in the state. Of course losing nine MLAs even before the election is declared is not going to augur well for the Congress in the state, but the development that is often ignored by political analyst is the fact that the Autonomous District Councils in the state are becoming mere spring boards for it members to climb on the political ladder.
There is a steady rise of politicians who take the unusual steps of first contesting the election to the Autonomous District Councils and then after they were elected members of the district councils; their next goal is to be member of the state assembly. To a fairly large number of politicians in Meghalaya; the Autonomous District Councils are mere springboard from where they catapult themselves to the next hierarchy on the political ladder.
There are altogether three Autonomous District Councils created on the basis of the three major geographical division of the state, these are the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council. The primary mandate of these ADCs as per the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is to protect and promote the ethnic culture and tradition of the people which is unique to the region, but four decades has lapsed since the state was carved out of the composite state of Assam, there are still a lot remain to be done on this front. The reason is because ADCs were not able to legislate any laws to this effect and almost all the three councils have done precious little to protect and promote the culture and tradition of the people in the area.
It is because the ADCs have miserably failed in their duty that there is a move to pressure the Central government to do away with the ADCs altogether especially in the context of Meghalaya where there is already a state which is mandated to do the same thing.
The toothless ADCs coupled with a very strong interference from the state government through the Department of District Council’s Affairs have almost rendered the Councils as institutions which are redundant. Perhaps these are also major factors that inspire the MDCs to aspire to become Members of the Legislative Assembly since the performance of the ADCs are largely controlled by the department of District Council Affairs of the state government.
This ensuing Assembly election saw a drastic rise of numbers of MDCs joining the fray and they are contesting as candidates of different political parties in the state. But the trend of MDCs contesting the 2018 election is more in the Khasi and Jaintia hills region of the state when compare with that of the GHADC.
Party -wise it looks like the newly formed People Democratic Front lead by its supremo P.N. Syiem also Chief Executive Members of KHADC has the largest numbers of MDCs contesting the election to the State Assembly in the constituencies which are under Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and all the candidates are also his colleague from the KHADC. Syiem himself is contesting from Mawsynram constituency.
The JHADC also has its fair share of MDCs contesting the election this time and A. Shullai Chief Executive Members JHADC is also contesting from Jowai constituency. The other members of JHADC contesting the election to Meghalaya Legislative Assembly are Moonlight Pariat from Jowai, Marki Mulieh also from Jowai and Holando Lamin who is contesting from Amlarem constituency.
The trend of MDCs joining the fray to contest the MLA election is here to stay and it will only grow with time and this also raises a moot question; if ADCs only serve as a training ground for MDCs to propel themselves to becoming MLA in the state.
(Mohrmen is a freelance writer and environment activist based in Jowai, Meghalaya. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org)