Three months is a long time in the history of politics in Meghalaya. In a matter of ninety days a person can go from being an MLA to a presidential candidate and finally an ordinary citizen of the country like any of us. In three lunar cycles a founder member of a party can become a person independent and without any party affiliation to the founder of another party. In Meghalaya politics a lot can happen in a short span of time as history is made and unmade but the test of time is whether the event created in that history is going to last and create more histories or otherwise. If the change in the history is going to have a positive impact on the society then perhaps the history in the making will last; if not then the incident will become history the moment it happened.
August 24 is an important date in the history of Meghalaya, because it was the day when a major political party in the state folded its flag and merged en bloc with the new National People’s Party. The incident also saw the former NCP president W Kharlukhi taking over as the President of the Meghalaya unit of the NPP with the 12 former NCP legislators joining the new party with him. It was indeed a historical moment for the state and its people because a new party is born.
Purno A Sangma NPP national president said on the occasion that his new party will build a new India. According to Sangma’, there are altogether 46 seats reserved for tribals in the Parliament and eleven more seats from which tribal candidates always win despite those being general seats. According to Purno’s calculation, if fifty seven tribals come together then the community can have a say in national politics. He also reiterated that the party is going to be a ‘tribal centric’ party but open to all communities. Nobody can dispute the seasoned politician and an optimistic Sangma’s calculation, but the question is – Is Sangma the messiah that the tribal communities in the country have waited for so long? Will his new NPP be able to unite all the 57 tribal MPs in the country? What Sangma does not realize is that if his calculation works the margin of his defeat in the recent presidential elections would not have been so huge. At the moment, 57 is but a number that he hopes his new party will garner but the fact of the matter is that the 57 seats have already been taken by other parties. It is not going to be easy for a new party like NPP to capture those 57 seats. Tribals in the country already belong to different political parties. Take for instance the two seats in Meghalaya, NPP can definitely win one seat; the other seat has always gone with the Congress. To begin with, NPP already started with a small target and as the saying goes, one can only reach as much as one aims to achieve and not beyond. Yes, 57 is a big number in the coalition politics and the 2014 general election is obviously going to give the country a fragmented mandate and the number 57, (small as it may be) can certainly make and unmake kings and queens. But the question that begs an answer is whether the NPP even get half of the 57 it is targeting for the 2014 general elections? 57 is s jinxed number in the Khasi Pnar society. We have a song titled ‘la shet u 57’ (cheated by 57 sung by a bard to mourn his loss of money by buying the archery ticket with No 57). Hope it is not going to be the same with NPP.
Sangma has also boasted that his political career is being guided by strong principles that he holds dear to himself. These principles, he says, has seen him through many ups and downs and through the thick and thin of his political career. But what people fail to understand is what principles Purno is talking about when he allows both the MPs even his own daughter to remain with the NCP? Isn’t true that there is something wrong here? Isn’t it true that Agatha even allowed PA Sangma to use her official residence to run his show in his presidential campaign? I mean are they not complicit in this? One would expect that a principled politician like Sangma would also do well to inculcate and instill good principles in his children. But what the elder Sangma did not say is that he is also a shrewd politician and why he did not advice the two MPs to join the new party. Well, because they will then cease to be MPs under the anti defection law and there are two more years to go until the current parliament term ends. Sangma is wise enough not to risk young Agatha’s fate by asking her to join his new party. It is all about power isn’t it Mr. Sangma?
The merger of NCP state unit with NPP was made at the wrong time. It seems like it all happened too fast even for a seasoned politician like Sangma to have time to think of the consequences that the merger can have. The ill-timed and ill-planed incident has cast a pall of gloom for candidates planning to contest from NCP tickets in the forthcoming elections.. Till then they were canvassing on an NCP ticket and the clock was still their symbol; then all of a sudden they are not NCP candidates anymore. The incident has particularly upset the candidature of prospective candidates in the different constituencies, I know quite a few candidates in Jaintia hills who had earlier planned to contest on an NCP ticket but after the merger they are now in a dilemma. They cannot decide whether to stick with the NCP which is now a leaderless party or join the band wagon and contest on an NPP ticket.
The sour grapes resentment in the NCP camp has made the current leadership go all out to get their old comrades the 12 MLAs disqualified from being members of the legislative assembly under anti defection law, but everybody knows that this is not going to happen. The question is how can a thief catch a thief? The Congress led MUA will not even think of disqualifying the 12 MLAs because if they do so, they will also have to disqualify one of their own. AL Hek was elected from Pynthor Umkhrah on a BJP ticket but had defected to join the Congress without resigning his membership in the house. As for now the 12 new NPP MLAs are safe but what is going to happen to the NCP? Without the Sangmas the NCP will gradually disappear from the political scene of the state and not supporting Purno’s presidential aspiration is one move that the Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar will regret. The Sangmas still have the charisma to take their followers wherever they move; their people also faithfully follow them.
This is the second time in the recent past that PA Sangma has started a new party and it remains to be seen if Sangma’s new venture is going to be another clever political move. This time it is very crucial because unlike the political risks he took earlier, this time he is also taking his politically groomed children with him. Everybody hopes that the move Sangma has made is not for his sake but for the political prospects of his children not that I believe in dynastic politics but the junior Sangmas have a lot to contribute to the state.