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Buzzword is change

Tura, Feb. 21: It’s 9.30pm, two hours after Tura — the second largest town in Meghalaya — has shut shop for the night when a young man steps into a leading private firm with three of his companions to make a request which is usual during elections.

The young man in question, Roger Benny A. Sangma, contesting as an Independent, is an IIM-Shillong graduate, who left a cushy job at Genpact, to chase his political dreams to usher in real change.

Change is the only word you hear during the subdued campaign in North Tura constituency of West Garo Hills district, which has 11 constituencies out of 24 in Garo hills.

It is the word everyone swears by, whether it is the ruling Congress or its main rival in Garo hills, the P.A. Sangma-headed National People’s Party, or Independents like Roger who with his boyish charm, intellect and candour, appears to be in for a long haul, irrespective of the poll’s outcome.

Everybody talks of change, but there has been no development worth tom-toming about since the “golden years” of Sangma that saw the setting up of the Tura supermarket and the MP Stadium, most locals say.

There is a serious crisis of drinking water, education facilities, advanced healthcare and law and order issues, they said. But admitted that it would be a two-way contest between former Rajya Sabha MP Thomas Sangma of the NPP and former government official Noverfield Marak of the Congress, even though there are nine candidates in fray.

Dominated by Garos, non-tribals in the town hold the key to which way the scales “will tilt”. “There is no need for campaigning in the town because it has already decided whom to vote like always,” said a shopkeeper.

Both Sangma and Marak are first-timers with both seeking votes to usher in real change. “It will be a fair fight so to say,” admits the amiable Thomas Sangma after a nukkad meeting in Babupara around 8.30pm.

What’s striking about the NPP campaign is its “fanning” of Garo pride by distributing of leaflets accusing the Congress and NCP of conspiring to rob a Garo (P.A. Sangma) of the Presiden’t post and their anti-tribal policies.

The Congress, on the other hand, talks about the failure of Sangma’s “big” development talk and of being serious only “outside” the Assembly.

P.A. Sangma, who was the MLA from the NCP, resigned during the Presidential elections. Congress leaders say the process of development has started after Mukul Sangma took over as chief minister.

Sayan Das, 19, a first-time voter who is preparing for his engineering course, says: “There is no development worth naming. Even if development comes, it comes very late. Just see how much change has taken place in Shillong. Here venturing out after sunset is risky. Even the administration is slow and unresponsive most of the time. I got my PRC two months after applying even after submitting all documents. We hope the next MLA and the next government does something for Tura and the youth.”

Nushbirth B. Marak, 22, who is doing his Plus II from a government college says a “little bit” of development is the need of the day. “No drinking water, narrow roads, not enough colleges. There has been change last time I voted. This time I hope the government will work towards addressing these issues.”

A change, however, has taken place for administrative convenience. Tura has been divided into North and South Tura after delimitation. West Garo Hills has been bifurcated into South West Garo Hills, a move which officials said would take the administration closer to the people. But most people here view it as “politically motivated” to dilute the influence of P.A. Sangma who is seen as the tallest of Garo leaders and a real threat to the ruling Congress.

Along with change, another topic that dominates talk is delimitation. “Nobody is sure who will win as nobody is sure about the voting pattern which will become clear only after the elections,” says a Congress man, a view echoed by the NPP.

PROFILE

North Tura: voters 25604 (13027 male, 12577 female), sex ratio 966,

Total population: 48184

Total candidates: Nine

Main contest: Congress versus NPP

Tura second largest town after Shillong, headquaters of West Garo Hills district in Western Meghalaya

Tura is 323km from Shillong

EPIC and photo coverage:100 per cent


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