Campaign trail blazes ahead of Feb 27 D-Day
Voters in Khasi & Garo Hills feel they have tough choices to make
Eight days to go for the Assembly elections and Meghalaya is witnessing frenzied campaigning across constituencies. Political parties and their candidates are holding multiple election campaigns in a day to walk the last mile to garner votes. While large national and regional parties are indulging in a show of strength in terms of bringing as many supporters as they can to the campaigns, independent candidates are doing their bit to encourage more voters to fight against corruption and false election promises.
The 375 candidates who are in the fray in 60 constituencies are counting the numbers in their respective areas. Locality meetings and small gatherings can be seen across the urban constituencies too. Political parties are also taking out mobile canvassing in vans and cars. Now, the wait is for the people’s mandate, the decision of 21.62 lakh voters on February 27. The counting on March 2 will finally seal the fate of the political parties.
As political parties fight their battles, the grassroots get busy finding the best way. A ground-level recce of the constituencies in East and West Khasi Hills and Garo Hills gives a peek at the possibilities. Having said that, the ambiguity in voters’ decisions and the unpredictability of the 2023 Assembly elections will always remain, especially given the history of Meghalaya’s volatile politics.
Fight in East Khasi Hills
The district with 17 Assembly constituencies, including the six urban seats (East, West, South and North Shillong, Pynthorumkhrah, Nongthymmai), will be an important segment to watch for.
In Mawryngkneng, the tough contest is among Pyniaid Sing Syiem of the National People’s Party (NPP), Osaphi S Jyrwa of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Banshanlang Lawai of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Highlander Kharmalki of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The contest will be tougher between NPP and UDP.
In Pynthorumkhrah, the toughest contest is expected among Alexander Laloo Hek of BJP, Pynshngainlang Syiem of the Congress, Rocky Hek of NPP and Mayborn G. Lyngdoh of VPP. Hek, who was the health minister before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, will have a befitting contestant in Syiem.
In Mawlai, the closest contest is among Process T. Sawkmie of UDP, Treiborlang Pathaw of NPP and Marbud Dkhar of the Congress, with the first two being more popular.
In East Shillong, M. Ampareen Lyngdoh of NPP and Manuel Badwar of the Congress are the close contestants. There are two more greenhorn contestants in the constituency who can be the future game-changers. Wanpynhun Kharsyntiew, a member of KAM Meghalaya who is contesting as an independent, and Avner Pariat of New Dawn who is contesting on a VPP ticket are making political statements by presenting to the voters their commitments and agenda for the next five years. Their demand for transparency and accountability cannot be ignored at a time when the incumbent NPP-led MDA government is facing several charges of corruption.
In North Shillong, the political atmosphere is hazy with no candidate seeming to be ahead of any other. Talking to the voters of this constituency including those who could read well the political wind direction, they admitted that they could not assess the outcome here. The main candidates from this constituency are Dr Aman War of UDP, John A. Lyngdoh of the Congress, Adelbert Nongrum of VPP, Mariahom Kharkrang of BJP and Elgiva G. Rynjah of TMC. Rynjah set a precedent among candidates of big political parties by releasing a constituency-level manifesto (Read: Let’s put the lens on constituency).
In West Shillong, the fight among Mohendro Rapsang of NPP, Paul Lyngdoh of UDP and Ernest Mawrie of BJP is getting picking up momentum. The Congress has fielded a greenhorn, former journalist Bethleen Dkhar.
In South Shillong, there are five candidates in the fray, and three among them are making some impact. They are Sanbor Shullai of BJP, independent candidate Angela Rangad and Ian Andrew Nongkynrih of TMC. Voters told this journalist that while the first remains a popular choice, the second, who has been an activist and comes from a political family, is making an impact. Rangad has been holding roadside meetings with a handful of listeners, which include her associates, and educating voters about their rights, besides talking about her micro-manifesto (Read: Let’s put the lens on constituency).
In Mylliem, it is going to be an interesting political field. The race for the first position is going to be among Ronnie V. Lyngdoh of the Congress, Hamletson Dohling of NPP and Mitchell Wankhar of UDP. The other candidates have to be contented with performing well in running the race.
In Nongthymmai, the political race field is quite interesting in which Charles Pyngrope of TMC will again race with former MLA of this same constituency Jemino Mawthoh of UDP. Who of them will carry the trophy — especially when the other five contestants have equal speed and stamina, if not better — will be public on March 2.
There are eight contestants from Nongkrem but the most interesting ones are Lambor Malngiang of UDP, Ardent Basaiawmoit of VPP and Dasakhiatbha Lamare of NPP. Basaiawmoit was defeated in 2018 by Malngiang.
In Sohiong, we have two former MLAs Samlin Malngiang of NPP and Donkupar R. Lyngdoh of UDP. S. Osborne Kharjana of the Congress is also being talked about in the constituency.
Mawphlang has seven candidates, “though not luminaries but attractive enough”, and the foremost among them are Mathew B. Kurbah of UDP, Auspicious Lyngdoh Mawphlang of PDF, Kennedy C. Khyriem and Dannyson Kurbah of the Congress. But the other three contestants — Mawkordor Rynjah of TMC, Wossarroi Rani of BJP and Doristar Marbaniang of VPP — are equally strong and can pull up great surprises.
Further south in Mawsynram, the prominent candidates are Himalaya Shangpliang of BJP, Ollan Singh Suin of UDP and Alvin Khyriem Sawkmie of NPP. Voters are also talking about Vincent T. Sangma of TMC, Gopalstone Hynniewta of the Congress and Starfing Pdahkasiej of HSPDP.
To the eastern side of Mawsynram, in Shella, many voters told this journalist that the real contest is between Mary Grace Kharpuri of NPP and Balajied Kupar Synrem of UDP. The other three contestants are Playness Khiewtam of TMC, Arena Hynniewta of BJP and Wellborn Bynnud of the Congress.
Pynursla has seven candidates, two of whom are former MLAs, Donkupar Massar and Prestone Tynsong. However, the contest is expected between Anthony J. Kongwang of UDP and Tynsong.
To the western side of this constituency is Meghalaya’s enchanting tourist destination, Sohra, where there are seven candidates contesting for the seat, will witness a triangular contest among Gavin Miguel Mylliem of PDF, Titosstarwell Chyne of UDP and Allan West Kharkongor of NPP. However, the other four candidates provide colourful wider choices to the voters who may want better changes for this dreary, dry, wet and stony constituency.
First polls in new district
For Eastern West Khasi Hills district, this will be the first Assembly elections. The two constituencies have a majority choice. Nonetheless, the fights, in both Mairang and Mawthadraishan constituencies, will be against UDP. In the former, UDP’s Metbah Lyngdoh and Congress’s Batskhem Ryntathiang are the contestants. In Mawthadraishan, the most keenly contested candidates are Brolding Nongsiej of UDP and Shakliar Warjri of HSPDP.
In West Khasi Hills districts, NPP is among the first three contestants in the three constituencies, namely Nongstoin, Rambrai-Jyrngam and Mawshynrut.
In Nongstoin, the political situation is hazy. The 44,000-odd votes will be shared mainly by Gabriel Wahlang of the Congress, Macmillan Byrsat of NPP, Sanjied Kynsai Shangrit of HSPDP, Macmillan Kharbani of TMC and Polestar Nongsiej of UDP. The rest of the votes will be scrambled by Diostarness Jyndiang of BJP and Bobby Kharshandy of VPP.
In Rambrai-Jyrngam, the fortune has to be decided among KP Pangniang of HSPDP, Kimfa Sidney Marbaniang of NPP, Fernandez S. Dkhar of TMC and Goldenstar Nonglong of Congress.
In Mawshynrut, the fiercest struggle will be amongst Methodical Dkhar of HSPDP, Gigur Myrthong of NPP and Justine G Momin of TMC. However, Andrew Charles Gare of Congress may surprise many as a dark horse.
South West Khasi Hills with two constituencies has four independent candidates. The big names in Ranikor are Pius Marwein of UDP, Martin M. Danggo of BJP and Tengsim G. Momin of TMC. However, the lone woman candidate Victorealness Syiemlieh of Congress may come out as a surprise to many even if she ma y not make it.
In Mawkyrwat of the Khasi-Jaintia sectors of Meghalaya, the frontrunners are Renikton L. Tongkhar of UDP, Carnes Sohshang of Congress, Sounder Strong Cajee of TMC and Medalsing Lyngdoh of HSPDP
Garo Hills’ expectations
Garo Hills, with 24 Assembly seats, is a crucial segment and there are some strong candidates in the region. Healthcare and education need special attention here and voters are looking forward to a change.
In West Garo Hills, North Tura has six candidates vying for this seat. The well-known names are Billykid A. Sangma of Congress, Thomas A. Sangma of NPP and Dr Pilne A. Sangma of UDP. If the voters are to be believed the real contest is between Congress and NPP.
In South Tura, there are five candidates. But all eyes are on Conrad Sangma of NPP and Bernard Marak of BJP. Though hoardings and placards showed NP’s might, a majority of the cross-section of voters whom the author spoke to said otherwise. The other contestants are John Leslee K. Sangma of UDP, Richard M. Marak of TMC and Brenzield Ch. Marak of Congress.
In the plains of Rangsakona, five of the six candidates whose names are doing the rounds are Zenith M. Sangma of TMC, Sophie R. Marak of BJP, Edmund S. Sangma of Congress, Subir Marak of NPP and Bipul Ch. Sangma of UDP.
In Ampati (South West Garo Hills), there are only four candidates — Miani D. Shira of TMC, Premananda Koch of BJP, Uttora Guri Sangma of Congress and Stevie M. Marak of NPP. Many voters whom the author spoke to said the TMC candidate has a tough contest from BJP and NPP but might just make the mark.
In Mahendraganj in the same district, there will be a tough contest among Dikkanchi D. Shira of TMC, Sayeedullah Nongrum of Congress, Sanjay A. Sangma of NPP and Tingku N. Marak of BJP.
In East Garo Hills, Williamnagar will be an interesting case to watch as Congress’s Deborah Marak will be on the fray. In 2018, the former deputy chief minister lost to NPP’s Marcuise Marak. The other contestant is Alphonsus R. Marak of TMC.
In Kharkutta, the real contest for votes is among Cherak W. Momin of TMC, Rupert Momin of NPP and Chireng Peter Marak of Congress.
In Mendipathar, the fiercest struggle will be among Marthon J. Sangma of NPP, Subroto G. Marak of UDP and Ferdinand D. Sangma of TMC. The other three contestants are Sengnab Momin of BJP, Tim Jim K. Momin of Congress and Elbert Marak of GSP.
In Resubelpara, the closest contest is among Timothy Dalbot Shira of NPP, Rinaldo K. Sangma of TMC and Tweel K. Marak of Congress. The other three candidates are lagging behind them.
In Bajengdoba, there are seven candidates vying for the seat but the real contest is among Pongseng Marak of NPP, Brigady Napak Marak of Congress and Tengrak R. Marak of TMC. According to many voters, Pongseng has an edge over others but his performance in the House in the last five years was abysmal.
In Songsak, we have Mukul Sangma of TMC, Champion R. Sangma of Congress and Nihim D. Shira of NPP as candidates who are in the frontline. Though a section of the voters feel Mukul has an edge over others, there is a debate on whether he should be chosen as he is an “outsider”. Moreover, the votes of the other two candidates are split.
In Rongjeng, Jim M Sangma of NPP and Sengnam N. Marak of TMC are close contestants but many voters are unhappy with Jim Sangma because of his past performance both in the Assembly and outside.
There are six candidates in Raksamgre and, according to voters, none is outstanding. The main names are Benedic R. Marak of BJP, Limison D. Sangma of NPP and Prabir D. Sangma of TMC. Limison, the sitting MLA, does not have a good report card in the Assembly performance.
In the plains belt of Tikrikilla, there are six candidates of whom Dr. Mukul Sangma of TMC is the most prominent. Moreover, all communities of this constituency came together to request him to contest for election from the constituency to get progress and development (Read: Support swells for Mukul Sangma). Rohinath Barchung of BJP and Jimmy D. Sangma of NPP are trying their best to challenge him in this mixed community Assembly segment.
Phulbari has six candidates and the prominent ones are former Assembly speaker Abu Taher Mondal of NPP and S.G Estamur Mominin of TMC. But the two other candidates, Edmund K. Sangma of BJP and Sailendra R. Sangma of Congress, are quite important challengers who may throw surprises in the hustings.
In Rajabala, the two prominent faces are Ashahel D. Shira of UDP and Md. Abdus Saleh of NPP. However, with the entry of Md. Rahman Kazi of TMC, the contest for the seat is changed. It has become, in fact, more interesting.
In Selsella, the close contest is among Ferlin C. A Sangma of BJP, Agassi R. Marak of TMC and Arbinstone B. Marak of NPP. The other four candidates who are vying for the seat provide better alternatives for voters to choose from.
In the hills of Dadenggre, we have five candidates, of whom James Sangma of NPP, Rupa M. Sangma of TMC and Chesterfield Sangma of INC who are in the front line. A majority of the respondents asserted that James’s performance in the previous years of his tenure was dismal.
In Salmanpara, Winnerson D. Sangma of TMC will still have an edge over four strong candidates Boston Marak of BJP, Sinbath Ch. Marak of Congress, Ian Botham K. Sangma of NPP and Ronald Rikman Sangma of UDP. In partly hill areas of Gambegre, many political pundits of West Garo Hills told this writer that Saleng A. Sangma of Congress has an edge over others.
Dalu has the maximum number (nine) and this is confusing voters. In this confused atmosphere, those who stand to benefit are Akki A. Sangma of BJP, Sengkal A. Sangma of TMC, Roger Benny A. Sangma of Congress, Brenning A. Sangma of NPP and Kennethson Sangma of UDP.
In Rongara-Siju in South Garo Hills, the real contest is among Rakkam A. Sangma of NPP, Rophul S. Marak of Congress and Rajesh M. Marak of TMC. But Calis G. Momin of BJP and Teseng A. Sangma of UDP are quite strong in attracting voters to their side and by no means they can be counted out.
In Chokpot, Lazarus M. Sangma of TMC is a well-known personality. As could be seen during the last five years, he performed well in the Assembly and even outside. However, Sengchim A. Sangma of NPP, Karak R. Sangma of Congress and Novembirth Ch. Marak of BJP are strong contenders for the seat.
Bagmara’s prominent face is Samuel M. Sangma of BJP but his rivals, Satto R. Marak of NPP, Alphonse Ch. Sangma of Congress and Saljagringrang Marak can put up a good fight. According to voters, there is no clear winner as of now.
(With inputs from MM)
Also read: Bernard sure of BJP winning over 15 seats in GH