Shillong, Feb. 15: The newly delimited constituency of 16 East Shillong (ST) represents a miniature battleground predicted to witness a close contest between three prominent figures in the political arena.
The triangular set-up for the February 23 polls has two cabinet ministers pitted against a familiar face representing the BJP. Meghalaya urban affairs minister M. Ampareen Lyngdoh, who is contesting on a Congress ticket, will be vying with deputy chief minister Bindo M. Lanong representing the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Romeo Phira Rani of the BJP.
The neck-and-neck contest is expected to be between Ampareen and Lanong, both having represented the UDP in their respective constituencies in 2008. Ampareen (then UDP) sealed her berth from the Laitumkhrah constituency by securing 3,775 votes out of 11,071 in a close contest of eight candidates. Lanong registered a landslide victory in Malki-Nongthymmai, securing 5,029 votes out of 15,923.
Rani, who was contesting on an HSPDP ticket in 2008 from Laitumkhrah, had managed only 319 votes.
The tables have now turned because of the delimitation factor, as Lanong’s stronghold, Nongthymmai, has now become a separate constituency. He faces a stiff task of diverging the Laitumkhrah vote bank.
If that was not enough, the anti-incumbency factor related to Ampareen has shown trends of votes flowing into both Lanong and Rani’s pockets. “Ampareen always had an upper hand in this constituency and following the clean record of her brother R.G. Lyngdoh, people have put their faith in her. But the recent CBI revelations speak otherwise,” said D. Kharmalki, an SBI official at Nongpoh.
Though the vibes are not communal, the rapport between non-tribal voters and regional parties has not always been the best. Considering the non-tribal population predominant is areas like Lumsohra (Sweeper Colony), Keating Road and many places of Laitumkhrah, Lanong may find it difficult to woo such voters.
“The Congress factor is all that matters at the moment and I don’t see a regional party impressing non-tribal voters to register a win,” said D. Barkataky, a political science teacher in St Edmund’s Higher Secondary School.
“Scams could have been someone’s dirty work to malign the image of Ampareen but in our area, she has fought against all odds to make her presence felt,” said Janessaline Pyngrope, project manager in a social enterprise group B-Able. She added that Ampareen had managed to develop her (Laitumkhrah) constituency.
A cross-section of people from Malki (Pdeng Shnong, Khlieh Shnong, Nongshilliang), Dhankheti and Umshyrpi would like to see their legislator Lanong grab the berth. Each of these candidates has a certain fan base in their respective “home zones” and this is expected to cause a few ripples in the final count.
Rani has the support of a few of his followers who are of the belief that change can be brought about by “voting” for change!
The votes of 10,099 male voters and 11,357 female voters in the Shillong East constituency will eventually decide the course of the individual legislator’s political career.
The “election-aware” segment of people are keeping a close watch on the manifestoes and analysing the individual candidate’s track record, while a majority are still swaying to the seemingly influential campaign speeches.
The student community, which is, at times, more informed of the happenings, see most of the candidates as figures that fail to deliver and many have even considered the “vote for nobody” right under Rule 49O. “Politicians bring you up just to let you down and I can see no one who dares to be a change,” said Eric K. Dkhar, a student of St Edmund’s College, who is of the firm belief that slow-paced development can be equated to no development in any sphere.
The overall mood, however, is upbeat. It just remains to be seen who among the three aspirants crosses the line. Will it be one of the seasoned politicians or an old “dark horse”?