Except for its first Government, Meghalaya has been ruled by coalitions as a result of the fractured mandate of the people. It could be taken as a negative point but it could also be seen as the outcome of the workings of a vibrant democracy representing diversity of opinion in a polity.
Coalitions of diverse political parties are expected to band together based on shared principles and ideologies. A common programme for the state is compulsory and a leadership whose authority is accepted headed across party lines. When this is absent it becomes a coalition of convenience. One will be forgiven for thinking that in such a situation, the idea is simply to stay in power for the spoils of government.
Measuring the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), a 39 member coalition of 5 political parties and two independents, on this scale as it begins its second half of its term, one finds it wanting on many crucial fronts. Take just a few issues, eg. the acceptance of the authority of the leadership, the crucial matter of the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and something as mundane as the matter of allowing the Railways into the state or the functioning of the Autonomous District Councils. There is no consensus on these in the MDA. Disagreements and dissent is the soul of democracy, agreed, but public display of rancour and hanging out the dirty linen, is hardly a democratic exercise as is currently the case. The political parties submitting memorandums on some of these issues to their own government, where their own party men are the cabinet ministers is also something hard to understand for the common public. Who is in control of the MDA ship and where is it sailing to?
It is true that the young chief minister, Conrad K Sangma had, when he took over the leadership of the MDA, had said that his government “is a development-oriented, policy-oriented decision (to form the coalition government). It has nothing to do with ideologies and principles per se.” He has also recently surrendered the most important prerogative of a chief minister, ie. choosing who to keep in his team and throw out the shirkers. He has handed this crucial task to the coalition partners. Does this mean that the CM has no authority to change a minister who is found inadequate and silently watch as such characters are foisted on the suffering public?
One cannot help ask the question: can a government lead without ideologies and principles? Particularly, in the background of the Coronavirus pandemic which has turned the world upside down, can a government run along on the business-as-usual mode? The word “development”, the catch line of the CM, itself has become a battlefield of ideologies as the future of capitalist development looks uncertain in the shadow of virus, which is believed to be a result of relentless exploitation of nature. These are some serious questions which the political leaders need to grapple with and search for answers instead of being satisfied simply to hold on to their chairs and complete a term.