A newly-joined BJP leader in Meghalaya reminded that Congress once used to tell the people that they should vote the party as it is in power at the Centre. This was the Congress mantra in all the hill states born out of Assam following decades-long conflicts with Congress-led governments, both at the Centre and state of Assam. There were regional outfits that led the struggle for independent states and successfully installed their governments. But Congress took over everywhere selling the slogan of same party governments at Centre and state. It’s very easy to convince people about greater benefits coming to the state if there is same Congress party government in the state as well.
A similar feeling is creeping into the minds of the people in hilly region if the result of recent bye-election in Assam is anything to go by. While the BJP was set to retain the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat vacated by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the margin of victory for Pradan Baruah, nearly two lakh votes, is significant. The huge margin is despite the hue and cry raised by pressure groups and political parties against the current BJP government’s alleged attempt to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi migrants. The result of bye-election to Baithalangso constituency in Karbi Anglong is an indication of the people buying the same argument being sold by Congress for decades. With this victory, the BJP has brought all the four assembly seats of Karbi Anglong into its kitty.
Meghalaya, especially Jaintia Hills, is adjacent to Karbi Anglong. There is a similarity in politics of Karbi Anglong and Meghalaya, both known for political instability. The Baithalangso winner Dr Mansing Rongpi, in fact, won the seat on Congress ticket early this year. Not surprisingly, with all three other seats going to BJP and the party in power in state and Centre as well, he shifted allegiance to the saffron brigade and won the seat again. The state assembly election is just a little over a year away. If Modi government’s demonetisation move does not prove to be a historic blunder in the coming months, and if more and more leaders shifting allegiance to BJP is any indication, the 2018 elections will not be a cakewalk for the Congress, nor any regional party.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 25, 2016)