Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, three politicians have emerged as champions of regional sentiment in Meghalaya, especially in Khasi-Jaintia Hills. Two are from different regional parties while one is a suspended member of Congress. The latter still held his cards leading to speculation if there would be another regional party in the state having 60 assembly seats. The trio, all known for stark their political differences, was recently seen together at a public meeting. The meeting urged them to have a unified voice, meaning a lot for the political circles to speculate for the next year’s polls.
Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) chief Ardent Basaiawmoit was once a radical student leader before joining the United Democratic Party (UDP) and then joining the HSPDP. He was known for leading many a high-voltage agitations on the streets of the city. Hispreaching Son Shylla, the former Congressman, has made a comeback to electoral politics by getting elected as a member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC). Shylla was known for awarding a family of 17 children, for “contributing towards protecting the Khasi race”. The biggest champion of the Khasi cause now is Pynshngain N Syiem, who singlehandedly resisted a move to ban MLAs holding elected posts in district council too. While Syiem is the current chief of KHADC the two others held the post earlier.
As of now, all the three star politicians are positioned at different political spectrums. There is no sign so far if all of them would have the same voice and give the ruling Congress a tough time. One thing is but clear that all are going to position themselves against the Congress. Possibility of BJP taking the chance to unite the voice of opposition (against Congress) is rife. However, PN Syiem, who commands a mass following, kept the political circles guessing by not opening his cards. He is too big a fish to be accommodated in present leading regional parties like HSPDP and UDP. He won’t risk his political career by joining the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM), another strong voice of Khasi-Jaintia aspirations. Existing leadership of UDP and HSPDP may be wary of bringing Syiem on board fearing loss of their own positions in the party. His other option is to take the BJP mantle, which is too big a risk in Christian-dominated Meghalaya.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 11, 2017)