Meghalaya, Nagaland polls: Two ‘coalition N-E states’ vote today

NPP, TMC in tough fight in Meghalaya; Oppn weak & ruling BJP-NDPP has edge in Nagaland
Polling team accompanied by security personnel ready to leave dispatch centres ahead of Meghalaya Assembly elections, in East Khasi Hills, Feb. 26, 2023. (Photo | PTI)
Polling team accompanied by security personnel ready to leave dispatch centres ahead of Meghalaya Assembly elections, in East Khasi Hills, Feb. 26, 2023. (Photo | PTI)

GUWAHATI:  As Meghalaya goes to polls on Monday, it will witness a battle between the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The state has 60 Assembly seats but voting will take place in 59 seats. The election to the Sohiong seat was deferred after the death of NPP candidate HDR Lyngdoh.

Meghalaya has had a history of coalition governments. Except for the first election in 1972, after it attained statehood, there was never a single-party government. In fact, it introduced the coalition government to the country. A large number of parties, both national and regional, are contesting the elections. The state has three regions – Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills. The Khasi and Jaintia Hills together have 36 seats while the Garo Hills region has 24 seats.

Unlike in Khasi and Jaintia Hills where the 36 seats invariably went to multiple parties in the previous elections, the Garo Hills largely vote for the ruling party and the main opposition. The NPP and the TMC are the two principal parties in the Garo Hills. Success there will decide which of them will lead the government.

The Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the 2018 elections by winning 21 seats but got relegated to a smaller party in due course after a series of defections of its MLAs. Not a single MLA is left in the party now.

The BJP and the TMC are trying to capture the Congress’ space. The BJP, which has just two MLAs, went all guns blazing during the poll campaign but it is very unlikely that it will do any wonders. Its rivals have projected it as an anti-Christian party in the Christian-majority state.

The NPP is going to elections in the backdrop of a series of corruption charges levelled against the six-party ruling coalition. Recently, Congress came out with a ten-point “chargesheet” against them.

Polls in backdrop of sporadic violence

Nagaland will go to the elections on Monday in the backdrop of sporadic incidents of violence. The state has 60 seats but voting will take place in 59 of them. BJP candidate Kazheto Kinimi was elected unopposed from the Akuluto constituency after his lone rival Khekashe Sumi of the Congress had opted out.

In the poll-related violence, one person lost his life while some others were injured in Mokokchung, Wokha, and Dimapur districts. A car, belonging to a candidate, was also torched by the miscreants in the Mon district of eastern Nagaland.

Capitalizing on a moribund Opposition, the ruling BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) combine is set to retain power. The two parties struck a seat-sharing deal, as per which NDPP and BJP will contest 40 and 20 seats respectively. They had a similar arrangement in the 2018 elections.

The Naga People’s Front (NPF), which had been in power in the state from 2003-18, virtually conceded defeat by contesting only 22 seats. It had emerged as the single largest party in the last election by winning 26 seats but the BJP-NDPP combine formed a coalition government along with others.

The NPF got disintegrated last year when its 21 MLAs defected to NDPP. Later, the NPF was accommodated in the government to make it an all-party and “Opposition-l ess” government. The idea was to pursue the unresolved Naga political issue cohesively with one voice.

The Congress, which was a powerhouse in the state under former Chief Minister SC Jamir but has now got reduced to a shadow of its glorious past, is contesting 23 seats. The party drew a blank in the last election.
The weakened Opposition has brightened the prospects of Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), a new entrant that is contesting 16 seats. 

Its candidates are those who were denied tickets by BJP and NDPP. They are not contesting in the seats being contested by BJP, after a perceived tacit understanding with the saffron party.

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