I like to begin with this quotation, “In a violent society, silence is violent: in an unjust society, silence is injustice: so even if you are a silent type, who has nothing to do with politics, you are still a politician, because in your silence and indifference, you are siding with the oppressors and exploiters. You are allowing corruption to happen. To be or not to be a politician is not the question. The question is: “which side are you”? (Mr. A. J. Veliath, UNICEF Officer in New Delhi in 2006).
The coming general elections in Meghalaya is a festival of celebrating democracy and all eligible electors in Meghalaya, including me, are requested to exercise our constitutional rights willingly with joy, judiciously and with responsibility at our command without being coaxed and bribed by any one in order to ensure the change that we want for the betterment of Meghalaya. Voters will go to the polls any date in the third or last week of February this year and the new government will have to be sworn in before March 6. This general election 2023 will elect MLAs to the Twelfth House of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.
This exercise is a very serious matter and it is a question of life and death for the next five years and even beyond for the State. The stake here is very high. If the 21.65 lakh voters of Meghalaya elect an unstable, coalition, corrupt and wicked government as they have done in 2018 then the next five years or beyond is doomed for our State for the next generation.
What is worrying all of us is that there are still many voters out there who love to go to vote because of freebies, including hard cash, oblivious of the results that bring about from such irresponsible franchises. But hopefully, a flicker of hope may be there. Let us hope against hope however. There may be others who love to vote once in five years because it is the opportunity for them to vote for some MLAs who can deliver the goods and the much needed change in their respective constituencies.
As the elections are just one month and few days away, hectic preparations are already on for the Chief Electoral Officer of Meghalaya, Mr. Fredrick Kharkongor and his subordinates in the districts of the Election Department, to ensure that everything are well prepared and laid out in details for this statewide exercise in which about 21. 65 lakh voters are involved in this massive exercise to elect the 60 MLAs.
Equally hectic exercises have been undertaken by various political parties in the State to meticulously select their candidates for this ensuing election to ensure that they come out victorious on counting day. However, the greatest headache are of the concerned candidates, including independents, who have already toiled very hard day and night and will waste no time during the next 42 days or so by using fully their brain power and employing every strategy and tactics available in the book including illegal might and main and resources to ensure their victories.
What is more important in all these is for the voters to prepare their homework physically and mentally right from now, not only in the last moment before going to cast their votes in the respective polling stations. Know your candidates well, use your knowledge well, be judicious. Weigh them carefully not by sentiments and instincts but by reasoning, and most of all not by freebies or by kith and kin or religion or community but purely by merits, integrity and the fear of God. “Elect people (candidates) who are capable, God fearing, trustworthy, blameless and free from corruption” (Exodus 19:21-22).
Again I will bring in another quotation which I consider appropriate for this context, “A country (state) is in trouble when its king (MLA) is a youth (not matured) and its leaders (MLAs) feast all night long. But a country (state) is fortunate to have a king (MLA) who makes his own decisions and leaders (MLAs) who eat at a proper time, who control themselves and don’t get drunk (indulged in immorality and corruption) (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17). “By justice a king (MLA/Minister) gives stability to the land (Meghalaya), but one who exacts gifts (indulges in corruption) ruins it” (Proverbs 29: 4).
Do not waste your votes by electing worthless candidates from parties that encourage and promote corruption who will just abuse their precious powers as public representatives and as legislators who utilise their positions for enriching themselves while the state runs dry and goes down to the drains.
Now just ponder within ourselves for a minute or two, what do we find today in Meghalaya? Are the rich becoming richer and plentiful while the have-nots and the poor are fast becoming poorer and empty handed? Who do the poor and the marginalised turn to? Do you think that the rich, the MLAs, MPs and MDCs will look after their needs?
Why have so many families become landless and all landed properties have been cornered by the few rich people? Why are so many unemployed youth becoming restless, hopeless and jobless? Why and where has the State gone wrong? Is it because we voters have allowed corruption for too long to breed everywhere? Does it sap all the nutrients, vitality and wealth of the state and make it dry?
Are we electing the people who are the main cause for this cancerous deadly disease or we have to blame ourselves for electing them thus we became collaborators to the act of corruption in the state? There are also other actors in government who caused this evil to thrive but if we the electors and the elected are clean much of the problem is solved and Meghalaya, being a majority Christian State (perhaps for name sake), becomes much better if not spotlessly clean.
Now we have come to a point that if we want to see the change we all desire to have let us all, we the 21.65 odd lakh turn our eyes and hearts to God Almighty who, through whom everything is possible, will taste and see the excellent results of the elections in 2023 – results that all 60 MLAs are capable, God fearing, blameless and free from corruption which Meghalaya has been longing for last 50 years.
Let us all in unison, on bended knees, ask God to enlighten us and give us the wisdom to choose the candidates without fear or favour and also let us pray fervently to bless all candidates, especially those chosen by Almighty, to be real legislators and our representatives.
God has been asking us right from the attainment of statehood to turn to Him. “They made kings (MLAs), but not through Me. They set up princes (MLAs), but without my approval. With silver and gold they made their idols (they worship Money) for their own destruction” (Prophet Hosea 8:4). Let us, therefore, allow God to play a pivotal role to clean the political system right from the elections process, into the Assembly and in governance.
For those who want to be MLAs let them be on their knees and pray hard to carry on their responsibilities with dignity and honesty to the best of their abilities and justice should prevail over them. “Oh Lord, now that you have made me, your servant, King (MLA), give me wisdom and understanding to differentiate between which is good and which is evil, because who can rule your people who are great and too many” (1 King 3:7-9). If He is present there then wickedness and the malice of bribery, corruption and all thinkable evils will be absent or at least be reduced drastically. In his absence the devil will have a field day.
So let us hope and pray that after the 2023 elections Meghalaya will have far better quality, more responsible and accountable MLAs and excellent governance not like the worthless and corrupted one we had during the last five years.
(The writer is a senior journalist and a former editor)