The results of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) are a big shock for the Congress. The Purno Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP) stole the show despite the perception that the ‘strongman’ has lost his strength. The Congress managed to win only seven of the 29 GHADC seats despite extensive campaign by chief minister Mukul Sangma himself. Although what exactly cost the Congress cannot be mathematically deduced as it’s a huge game like election, a few factors that resulted in the debacle may be highlighted.
The Congress first mistake, it appears, was the repeated extension of the GHADC in the name of accommodating the homecoming rebel groups by increasing the number of seats in the Council. But this being a huge exercise needing Constitutional amendment, the state government’s objective is yet to be realised. The Congress-led Council got as many as three extensions, meaning one-and-a-half years of ‘free rule’! The voters may not have overlooked this fact. Another factor can be the little improvement in the law and order situation over the past 4-5 years. The government has adopted dual strategy of extensive anti-insurgency operation and also peace talks. None could yield results. Although there were casualties on the side of rebel groups, there has been no respite in casualty rate of security forces and civilians either. The mega homecoming ceremony by so-called disbanding of two militant groups – Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its breakaway faction ANVC-B – too failed to show any positive results as yet.
The NPP could have done better. It was obvious for the party after the bye-election of Chokpot where NPP and the Garo National Council (GNC) combine secured more votes than the winning Congress candidate. This time too, the GNC sprung a surprise by winning as many as three seats, even after the demise of its founder leader Clifford Marak that had necessitated the Chokpot bye-election. Both the NPP and the GNC fought on the same agenda and cashed in upon the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress. Had there been a pre-poll tie-up, the scene might have been different today. NPP would not have had to make much compromise on ideology as both the parties are vocal in favour of the demand for Garoland. Even though there appears to be a post-poll tie-up between the parties to form the executive committee in GHADC, the challenges of an alliance are too many in a state like Meghalaya. The NPP must take a lesson from the turbulent affairs of the KHADC before going ahead with forming the alliance.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 17, 2015)