The BJP’s most preferred catch phrase in recent Indian elections — “double-engine sarkar” – seems to have run out of steam in Meghalaya so much so that the party is now dubbing a government of which it is a part as “most corrupt”.
Addressing a rally at Rangsakona in Garo Hills, senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said a judicial inquiry would be initiated against the incumbent “corrupt regime” if his party forms a government in the state.
Benefits of the Central government schemes did not reach the targeted people due to corruption in the state government headed by Conrad Sangma, Shah alleged.
Listening to his charges, it was difficult to make out that the BJP is still a part of the government that Shah was pillorying.
BJP in power
BJP MLA Sanbor Shullai continues to be a senior cabinet minister in the Sangma government that Shah blamed for the underdevelopment of the state.
Significantly, the BJP is not the lone ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) constituent to turn gun against the government.
All the alliance partners of MDA have suddenly turned rivals, engaging in a bitter electoral battle against each other and contesting solo in this election.
The United Democratic Party (UDP), another important member of the ruling conglomerate, even stressed the need to have a Khasi as the next chief minister of Meghalaya, exposing the state’s inherent ethnic fissures.
The current chief minister is a Garo.
UDP leader Process T Sawkmie claimed that Khasi-Jaintia Hills are losing out for having a chief minister from Garo Hills.
“Sportspersons wanted a stadium of international standards to be built in Shillong but it was taken to Tura. Even Meghalaya’s first state university will be set up in Tura (in Garo Hills),” he said.
“It is high time that we have a CM from the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region so that major projects will not be diverted to Garo Hills,” the UDP leader said, labelling serious charges of discrimination against Sangma.
For the MDA government’s failure to introduce the Inner Line Permit system in the state, Sawkmie put the blame on another alliance partner.
He said it was the BJP-led central government that dilly dallied on the issue despite the assembly passing a resolution in favour of ILP implementation.
Those who shared the spoils of the government in the past five years are now trying to project themselves as clean, putting all the blame for the government’s failure on Sangma’s National People’s Party, the lead partner.
Many see a deliberate ploy to mislead voters in these holier-than-thou claims.
“This is a big eyewash to confuse voters. By castigating the NPP, the BJP and other MDA partners are trying to tell the electorate that they are not responsible for the corruption and other misdeeds of the government. But why were they silent all these days?” asked Padmashree award winning writer, social activist and journalist Patricia Mukhim.
“The problem is that amidst all tamashas involving songs and dances in the name of campaigning, where is the room for electorates to reflect. So, the political parties think they can get away with whatever they claim,” Patricia told The Federal.
The shadow-boxing theory gets further bolstered by the NPP’s meek response to the vitriolic attacks by its friends-turned-foes.
“We were together for almost five years and no one had a problem with the government’s functioning. But suddenly during elections, they started throwing stones at us (NPP-led government). Let them say whatever they feel like saying for the sake of election,” said NPP vice president and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tyngsong.
“The NPP is primarily targeting the TMC and the Congress and mostly ignoring the jibes of its former allies. This could be part of a well-thought strategy,” said Xavier Mao, a political commentator who teaches at the Shillong-based North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU).
There is an element of risk in the purported strategy though. After all, there are possibilities of estranged partners ending up competing for the same vote base, ultimately harming their prospects.
Will it backfire?
But then elections call for desperate measures and calculated risks.
There is no denying the fact that there are resentments against the NPP-led MDA government and that Sangma is facing a tough battle even in its home turf of Garo Hills.
In such a scenario, splits in anti-establishment votes could only help his cause.
The multi-pronged contests have increased the chance of a fractured mandate. That could be the best possible scenario for the ruling allies, who are now fighting each other.
Mukhim says there is a possibility of estranged partners again coming together post elections.
The BJP national vice president and Meghalaya in-charge M Chuba Ao too hinted at a post-poll reconciliation, saying his party does not rule out forming an alliance with the NPP after the elections.
“How can you criticise the NPP if you plan to join it after the elections?” asked Meghalaya Trinamool Congress (TMC) president Charles Pyngrope, slamming the BJP for its alleged double standards.
But, as they say, everything is fair in love, war and elections– or so it seems in this Meghalaya electoral battle.