In poll-bound Meghalaya, Cong relies on religion, BJP bets on development

File photo for representational purpose only. Caption: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Khasi costume addressing public during his visit to Meghalaya




Shillong: The Congress, which is facing a massive anti-incumbency in Christian-dominated Meghalaya, has been exploiting religion to its hilt to turn the tables on its rivals. It has also fanned out several Christian leaders from other states and roped in religious personalities of various Christian denominations to build up a Christianity-in-danger-if-BJP-comes-power narrative ahead of the Assembly election. But surprisingly this time around the common man is not falling for this farce.

The BJP’s development agenda is getting good traction among the public, who think Prime Minister Narendra Modi can usher in development to the resource-rich state which has huge potential to prosper. The Prime Minister and BJP leaders have tried to drive home the message that if the party wins it will develop the tourism infrastructure of the state. The party has laid the blame of underdevelopment and bourgeoning unemployment at the Congress government’s doorsteps. The party cleverly avoids any mention of religion, as it would be detrimental to its poll prospects.  “We are facing the electorate with our development agenda. We have a plan to improve employment situation. The state has the potential to emerge as a major tourist destination but the Congress government had done precious little so far,” says Satyendra Tripathi, BJP Organising Secretary, Meghalaya.

During her recent visit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, said, “We are not here because it’s election season but we are people who believe that change and positive change requires a lot of concerted efforts. Nothing happened in the last 10 years. You find a situation where basic infrastructure such as drinking water and roads has not reached.” The focus areas of its Vision Document are roads, education and health.

Although the Church plays a major role in the social life of Meghalaya, the politics by and large has been individual-centric. Many a time, Independents emerge as king-makers. In the outgoing Assembly, there were about 10 Independents (out of 60}.  The BJP’s strategy has been to rope in many winnable and formidable individuals
to contest on its symbol.

With close fight on the cards, political observers feel that there is a possibility of a hung Assembly.  Conard Sangma’s National Peoples Party (NPP) is likely to emerge as the single largest party. If it falls short of absolute majority, the BJP will be its natural ally. NPP and BJP are already alliance partners in Manipur and at the Centre. UDP, another major regional player, is also not averse to tying up with BJP in case of a hung assembly. Another possible alliance that could emerge in the post-poll scenario is BJP/UDP-HSPDP/NPP combine. Although NPP is unlikely to go with the Congress, other regional parties don’t have any such inhibitions.