The hustle for the 11th Meghalaya Assembly shows a new trend of more political greenhorns entering the fray than ever before. To twist a phrase coined by the one of the most prominent politicians of the state, late B B Lyngdoh, the election-rains this time has showered in a record number of “mushroom” candidates.
The grand old man of Meghalaya politics, Lyngdoh was known to disdainfully wave off the birth of many political parties when elections are round the corner as “ki parti tit” (the mushroom parties), which had no real long term political agenda thought out for the good of the state, but were out-growths of narrow interests and personal ambitions which died down like mushrooms when the rains (read elections) got over.
There are 375 candidates in the fray for 60 State Assembly seats.
But among this new crop of first-timers one sees a number of persons who exhibit different characteristics and who could be classed like a Hindi idiom, “lamba race ka ghora.”
Among the few, at the top of this list are two candidates, one of them is 47-years old Angela Rangad, who is an independent candidate under the banner of a new political platform they floated called KAM Meghalaya, making a bid from South Shillong constituency. The other is Avner Mendon Pariat (36), fighting from the East Shillong Constituency also as an independent on the ticket of another new party, the Voice of People Party (VPP).
Both these constituencies are among the toughest electorates to crack as past results show that they tend to seek status quo rather than go for change. Even old-timers claim that these constituencies are the intellectual bases of the state, but to this they add the corrigendum, “Well, at least it used to be so, but we no longer know now.”
These two candidates are worth watching as they are well known for the various public positions and have taken on many issues of the state, particularly when it comes to the fierce never-ending debate on the tribal-non tribal issue that has plagued the state for the past 51 years which often spills out into the streets. They had the courage to take a stand and call out for equal treatment and justice for all.
Rangad has grown up in the public eye as she took up cudgels over many issues on behalf of the marginalized such as domestic workers, daily wagers, hawkers and others. Her commitment to play it rough for the sake of their issues and hit the streets, even alone, has earned her a formidable reputation.
They have been “accused” of being ‘activists’ rather than politicians in social media comments. This is the very quality that puts them apart from the majority of the other candidates, greenhorn politicians and veterans alike where a majority trace their lineage from the normal political heritage that tends to mostly spring out from the channels of son-of-the-soil and students politics, ethnic nationalism, “development” agenda and the like.
These candidates trace their political DNA from the wider Human Rights movement and the national and global campaigns linked to the issue. Their years of training as activists have helped them come out with meticulously prepared micro manifestos for their own constituencies while keeping an eye on the needs of the state.
People feel that they have brought in some fresh air into the opaque money-oiled electioneering by bringing in the concept of crowd funding to fund their campaigning.
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