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Seven in search of a seat

Shillong, Feb. 19: Seven candidates, five national parties, one Assembly seat. The newly delimited constituency of South Shillong spells “complexity” and holds the meshwork of tactical advantages in favour of each of the candidates drawing their swords.

On a general observation, it has been found that the voters of South Shillong are gearing up to start on a clean slate in 2013 instead of carrying on with the legacies of the past. Such a vibe generally has the outcome in favour of new faces and a change from the existing stalwarts.

“Stronghold” is a word that will make its mark in this constituency like none other.

This newly delimited constituency has under its category the previous constituency of Laban and parts of Mawprem. The non-tribal vote count, coupled with votes of educationists who analyse each move, keep the cloud of uncertainty from bursting prematurely.

This contest will witness the fight of some known faces with lesser known but “impact-causing” candidates. Sitting MLA from Laban, Sanbor Shullai, representing the NCP will be in a neck-and-neck contest with sitting MLA from Mawprem, Manas Chaudhuri, who is fighting on a Congress ticket after his 2008 contest as an Independent.

The regional party, UDP, is represented by Edward L. Kharwanlang. Veteran politician B.K. Joshi is jumping into the fray on a Samajwadi Party ticket. The new faces this time round comprises Augustine Lakiang, contesting on a BJP ticket, and Mehboob K. Lyngdoh, who is representing the newly formed National People’s Party. The lone Independent in the battle is Sounder S. Cajee, brother of Mawlai constituency’s Congress candidate, Founder S. Cajee.

Close contest for stalwarts

A prominent picture that is being closely monitored is the “fight within a fight” between the 2008 contestants, Mawprem legislator Manas Chaudhuri (then Independent) and Laban legislator Sanbor Shullai (NCP). Earlier in 2008, Manas Chaudhuri won from Mawprem securing 7,833 votes out of 15,009 and Sanbor Shullai won from Laban constituency by securing 4,741 votes out of 10,633. The delimitation is predicted to have a minimal impact as both of them have a dedicated fan base which might turn tables in either’s favour. A general survey revealed that Chaudhuri has an impact in parts of Mawprem, Cantonment area, Rilbong and pockets of Laban while Shullai retains the vote bank of major Laban areas including Riat Laban and Lumparing. “He has been our leader for over 10 years and has worked for us,” said a non-tribal resident of Riat Laban who feels that Sanbor is the best bet as evident in earlier choices.

Lone regional party candidate

The shifting of allegiance from a national party to a regional party sees Edward L. Kharwanlang making a mark in the upcoming polls. Kharwanlang (earlier BJP) can be seen to draw some counts in his favour considering the rampant campaigning by the UDP. In 2008, contesting from Laban, Kharwanlang gave Shullai a run for his money and emerged as the candidate with the second highest valid votes (2,303) in his favour. Many see him as a legislator of capabilities considering his existing stint as the gaonburah of Laban and not as one from the UDP.

first-timers steal some counts

Political analysts consider the first-timers as “dark horses” who might rip off chunks of vote from the known candidates but at this juncture, it is difficult to say who among the two has an edge. Laban, being a BJP stronghold, may see a certain section swaying towards Augustine Lakiang who is carrying the party banner. Mehboob K. Lyngdoh can also win a few hearts considering that the newly formed NPP aims to focus on a certain section.

SP nominee a strong contender

The oldest among the seven candidates, Binod K. Joshi, 62, needs to have his seasoned moves closely monitored, according to some residents, as he has a grip over the Nepali electorate. His shifting of base from Congress to Samajwadi Party is likely to impact the image of a competitive candidate considering the fact that in 2008, he secured 5,155 votes from Mawprem which made him a candidate securing the second highest vote count.

Independent luck

The Independent candidate presumed to play spoilsport in the battle is Sounder S. Cajee who remained in hibernation during the 2008 polls and was last seen in the arena in the September 2003 byelections where he secured 517 votes only. Cajee might eat into vote share of some of the contenders if one goes by the words of some “silent voters” who feel that the approachability factor is Cajee’s plus point.

The 13,881 male voters and 13,827 female voters of South Shillong comprise a mixed population who refrain from divulging any significant information of who would cross the finishing line. It remains to be seen if the tactical advantages are converted into valid votes in each candidate’s bag.