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Signs of trouble are evident for the regional parties, who are about to capture power in the autonomous district council (ADC) for Khasi Hills region of Meghalaya. Two newly-elected members of the Khasi Hills ADC or KHADC committed ‘human error’ in casting their votes through secret ballots for the election of the KHADC chairman. Neighbouring Assam witnessed similar situation recently during the Rajya Sabha election when some opposition MLAs committed ‘errors’ while casting their votes. Most of these errors by the elected representatives, upon whom lies the responsibility of fulfilling aspirations of thousands of people, are nothing but pure result of horse trading. The great Indian culture of horse trading is visible right from the parliament to the ADCs. Although the Anti-Defection Act has made it a little difficult for parliamentarians and legislators to switch parties, the field is still wide open in the ADCs constituted for development of indigenous tribal communities.

Small parties especially the regional parties have been demanding implementation of the law in the three ADCs of Meghalaya. The Congress, which is the highest beneficiary of absence of the law in the ADCs, has not yet made its stand clear on the issue. Needing 16 seats to form the executive committee in the 30-member KHADC, the Congress with just eight MDCs ‘won over’ several opposition MDCs to form the EC in the previous EC. This time the party is in a better position with 10 members. But, the three main regional parties – Hills State Democratic People’s Party (HSPDP), United Democratic Party (UDP) and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) – are still resolved not to make way for Congress again. The parties had even administered oath to their candidates before the election that they would not defect at any cost. Their mission was so far successful as they had managed to cobble up an alliance to form the EC. But before formation of the EC, the first casualty was Independent MDC, James Sylliang, a former militant. He has already joined the Congress-led opposition alliance raising its strength to 12. Now the Congress is not so far from the magic mark. If the ‘human error’ by two MDCs were inspired by horse trading, a political drama is imminent in the KHADC. The ADCs in Meghalaya are used to such drama, and so are the public. Such things, surely triggered by money and power, are violation of the mandate the public gave to the elected representatives and political parties. To check the menace in ADCs, Anti-Defection Act is the need of the hour.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 8)