VPP can help people get back their voice
The new party has put up an impressive show in Elections 2023 & promises to push through its vision of clean politics
The Meghalaya Assembly elections 2023 had several surprises, some of which were pleasant and promising. One such surprise is the performance of the Voice of The People Party (VPP), which was formed in October 2021 by former HSPDP leader Ardent Basaiawmoit along with a group of like-minded citizens. Four of the party’s 18 candidates won (in Mawlai, North Shillong, Nongkrem and Mawryngkneng) and others put up a great show by keeping the vote margins low.
There are many factors which helped VPP make a mark despite being a new entity in the electoral politics of Meghalaya. Though the party’s president, Basaiawmoit, and leader Adelbert Nongrum are seasoned politicians, its candidates were greenhorns with one goal, to cleanse the politics of the state. This was why the party chose a winnow (phrah in Khasi), which is a metaphor for cleaning the unwanted and polluting elements from the state politics, as its election symbol. Also, winnowing is a common exercise in many households and many connected with the sentiment.
The campaign song of VPP also contributed to capturing people’s attention. The jazzy music and the modest lyrics became popular, even among those who did not vote for the party, soon after its launch.
“The song says that when everyone’s choosing the phrah, why would you be left behind? The sense of neighbourhood and togetherness is there. Also, it talks about the collective decision-making for a bigger change,” said Aibandaplin F. Lyngdoh, the VPP’s candidate from Mylliem who gave a tough fight to senior politician Ronnie Lyngdoh of the Congress.
The party did not spend money on producing the song and was helped by a well-wisher, SF Mylliemngap, with the lyrics and the music.
But most importantly, it was VPP’s down-to-earth manifesto that helped the party connect with voters in a short period of time. Many of its candidates also came out with micro-manifestos which focused on the problems of their respective constituencies. (Also read: Let’s put the lens on constituency)
For instance, Aibandaplin talked about the farmers’ welfare during her campaign as Mylliem constituency has a large number of people who depend on agriculture to earn a livelihood. Avner Pariat, who was VPP’s candidate from East Shillong, talked about public health centres, public transport, affordable drug and alcohol centres, etc. These micro manifestos are reflections of the party’s main manifesto, which talked about the needs of the public in day-to-day existence.
“We presented a clear-cut programme before people. Ours is one of the most pragmatic manifestos where we looked into the critical issues of the state. VPP has presented a politics of principles and issue-based politics,” said Batskhem Myrboh, the spokesperson for VPP and a teacher at Synod College.
The manifesto highlighted certain points which were seldom spoken about by big political parties. In the education sector, the party promises, among other things, to reform the Meghalaya Board of School Education, streamlining recruitment of teachers in aided educational institutions, focus on research in higher education, administrative and financial autonomy to government schools and improving the service conditions of teachers in both private and public schools. These are some of the most critical and least discussed issues in the sector.
In the healthcare sector, VPP wants to ensure better service conditions of ASHA workers, strengthen government dispensaries and promote traditional medical practices, among other things. The party also talks about urban planning, waste management, development of sports, reformation of the state’s public service commission and awareness on environment, among others.
Another factor that established the credibility of the party is the consistency in the idea of clean politics. None of the VPP candidates had criminal record. They were new faces with a clear vision for the state. “VPP gives people a real alternative to the old crorepati parties,” said Avner Pariat, who was the party’s candidate in East Shillong.
This helped the party have an impressive performance in the elections. In Mawlai, VPP’s Brightstarwell Marbaniang not only defeated the sitting MLA of UDP, PT Sawkmie, but had a wide vote margin of about 6,000 votes. In other constituencies where VPP could not win, it was either in the second or third position.
According to Basaiawmoit, the party’s success was due to a combination of the three factors — people-centric manifesto, an appealing campaign song and the party symbol that resonates with the common man. “However, most of all our trust in God. Therefore, our victory shall be attributed to our strong faith in God as a party,” he added.
VPP’s performance gives hope for the future of Meghalaya politics where the electorate will shun money and choose their representatives on the basis of issues. It gives hope for a legislative assembly where members will have integrity and vision. With four MLAs, the task of changing what has been the norm for decades will be difficult but not impossible if VPP remains focused on its ideology.
~ Team Meghalaya Monitor
Also read: Greenhorn who gave Ronnie a run for money