The “tricky” and “demographically debatable” delimited 18 West Shillong constituency (general seat) is gearing up for a contest that will be closely monitored not only by poll observers but also by those who do not have a stake in the area.
West Shillong roughly has under its banner a section of the previous 19 Jaiaw and 21 Mawprem constituencies.
Jaiaw remained a stronghold of regional parties while Mawprem, a ground for national parties from 1972 to 2003, after which NCP candidate Ardhendu Chaudhuri represented it. Following his death and a by-election in February 2005, Manas Chaudhuri represented the constituency.
West Shillong will witness two new faces — Mohendro Rapsang (Congress) and Donaldson Shanpru (Independent) — standing on the platform with the former Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president and Jaiaw legislator Paul Lyngdoh who is representing the United Democratic Party (UDP) for the first time following his disassociation with the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM).
The newly delimited constituency has certain strategic counts that may eventually roll the dice in favour of any of the three candidates. It remains to be seen as to who succeeds in creating an impression that adds up to their favour. The entire contest in this constituency boils down to the two prominent figures — Lyngdoh and Rapsang.
While Lyngdoh is a prominent political figure who was voted to power both in 2003 and 2008, he carries with him the influential tag of being the former president of the powerful students’ union.
Rapsang, who is a former myntri (minister) of Hima Mylliem, comes from the reputed Rapsang family that is well known for many youth developmental and industrial activities.
The inclination of voters in such a situation remains neutral.
Shanpru, on the other hand, has maintained a low profile and knowledge about his strategy is still sketchy.
A statistical analysis will always show advantages stacked in favour of Lyngdoh considering the fact that public support towards him has been overwhelming in the last two elections.
In 2003, Lyngdoh (then KHNAM) emerged victorious amongst five candidates by securing 5,873 votes out of 10,256. A similar win by a mammoth margin was recorded in 2008 when he garnered 9,643 votes out of 12,591 in a one-sided contest against A.H. Scott Lyngdoh of the Congress. But delimitation of the constituency has made it difficult to predict who would emerge victorious on February 28.
One has to consider that delimitation has resulted in a direct split of the non-tribal vote bank for this constituency.
An interesting facet of this constituency is that it records one of the largest non-tribal vote concentrations.
West Shillong, having a major population of non-tribals residing in its pockets, will for the first time, decide the fate of a tribal candidate, as no non-tribal is in the fray.
Lyngdoh already has a stronghold in his constituency, but it has to be noted that a share of his supporters from a few Jaiaw localities have now been grouped under North Shillong constituency and this is predicted to impact his vote bank in a nominal manner.
On February 23, the votes of 11,488 male voters and 11,838 female voters will eventually decide the outcome in this interesting constituency. A peculiar observation in several parts of West Shillong is that people have chosen to remain “silent voters” and are not willing to divulge any information regarding their support or expectations from a particular figure.