The word Meghalaya means an abode of clouds in Sanskrit. Could the name have been more apt for the state which receives an average of 12,000 mm (470 in) of rain a year, making it India’s wettest state and blessing the state with a diversity of flora and fauna? More than 70% of the state is forested and economy of the state is primarily agrarian. BJP looks very confident about winning this state.
Elections to the Meghalaya Assembly are scheduled to be held on February 27 and the results will be declared on March 3. Meghalaya is currently ruled by a Congress-led group with Shri Mukul Sangma as the Chief Minister. The Congress has been in power for the past 15 years in Meghalaya. One of the last bastions of Congress rule in India, the State Congress is leaving no stone unturned to save their citadel. However, their campaign has been marred by severe infighting, mass resignations, party hopping and allegations of corruption against its leaders. BJP, having already replaced the Congress as India’s most dominant party looks to make serious inroads in its last remaining strongholds to accomplish the vision for a “Congress Mukt Bharat”.
But in a state where the Christian population is almost three-fourths of the total, the official language is English and Churches of various denominations have an influential role in selection and voting, can a party like BJP, perceived by many to be a Hindu party from the Hindi heartland, fancy its chances at forming a government?
If the reports from the ground are to be believed, they certainly have a shot. While it would not be right to say that Congress will be decimated in the upcoming elections, it sure is in for a tough fight. The BJP and the NPP (BJP’s partner in the NDA but contesting elections separately) are taking the fight to the very doorstep of the Congress. The nervousness of the Congress can be gauged from the fact that the Incumbent CM has filed nomination papers from two different constituencies, Ampati and Songsak. Shri Sangma had won from Ampati for five consecutive terms since 1993 however it appears that he is scared of losing the election from Ampati as the party is facing anti-incumbency wave in the state. Thus, the CM has filed his nomination papers from a second Assembly seat too.
Due to this “bravado” of the Congress chief minister, even members of his party admit privately that it has a tough fight ahead. It is not only up against the NPP and BJP, but also regional parties United Democratic Party (UDP) and Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) which while theoretically should benefit the incumbent Congress by splitting the anti-incumbency votes has only rattled the party’s top brass. They very well know that their party can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, just like what happened in Gujarat.
The BJP has made Shri Alphons Kannanthanam, a retired Civil Servant and the minister of state in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology & the minister of State (independent charge) of the Ministry of Tourism as its man-in-charge in Meghalaya to provide some much needed firepower to the party’s assault.
Shri Kannanthanam has met with several religious leaders to spread the Prime Minister’s vision of a developed India and his philosophy of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”. His Ministry is spending a lot of money to construct a Christian religious circuit to develop tourism in the region under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Union government, where the ministry of tourism provides Central Financial Assistance to state governments for various tourism projects. Even Amit Shah, the president of BJP has campaigned in the state to boost its electoral prospects. He attacked the Congress for looting the funds released from the Central Budget which are meant for the development of the state and keeping it backward. Moreover, BJP which lacks a committed ground team in the state has gained stature by inducting several disgruntled members of other parties, primarily from the Congress.
Supporters of the BJP say that the rule of the Congress has made a mess of the entire state, reduced it to muck and it is now the time for the Lotus to bloom. But will the lotus bloom in India’s wettest state, this only time and the voters in Meghalaya will tell.
But the effect of winning Meghalaya will be gargantuan. Meghalaya is an unfamiliar wicket and has caste-religion demographics that have historically been opposed to the BJP. Winning Meghalaya will mark BJP’s foray into non-traditional bases. BJP cadre will get the much needed shot in the arm to try and win states like West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala that appear impregnable for the BJP currently. Furthermore, BJP will get to boast about it’s pan India approval and a supporter base that cuts across caste and religious barriers.