Shillong, Feb. 24: If history repeats itself on Thursday, Meghalaya is heading towards another hung Assembly, implying five more years of political volatility arising out of the tricky game of managing coalition politics.
Five years ago, 89.04 per cent of Meghalaya’s electorate voted to elect 60 members to the state Assembly from among 338 candidates. But the outcome of the historic turnout was a fractured mandate. Yesterday, the state recorded another resounding turnout — 88.06 per cent. So, will history repeat itself on Thursday when the fate of the 345 candidates, which were yesterday sealed in electronic voting machines across 2,485 polling stations in 60 constituencies, will be announced?
From 2008 to 2013, Meghalaya saw three chief ministers — D.D. Lapang, Donkupar Roy and Mukul Sangma.
Lapang led the government twice in a span of five years. Will the period 2013-2018 witness spells of political turmoil? Opinion on such prediction is divided.
Outgoing chief minister Mukul M. Sangma, whose fate was sealed by 21,774 voters in his Ampati constituency under South West Garo Hills, was positive about the Congress returning to power with at least a simple majority.
“We (Congress) have tried to reach out to the people. They have responded and it is to be seen on the day of counting. I have reasons to believe that in the worst situation, we would be close to the halfway mark. In a good situation, we can cross 31,” Sangma said.
Sangma, whose party had contested all the 60 seats, is seeking re-election for the fifth consecutive time from Ampati. The Congress ally in the outgoing Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) government, the United Democratic Party (UDP), is in a buoyant mood and certain of forming a government. “We are expecting to cross 20 seats or more as people desire a change in the state,” UDP working president Bindo M. Lanong said.
On government formation, he said, “Although the parties are yet to discuss post-poll alliances, it would be better that the Congress sits in the Opposition this time since the party is a divided house with too many leaders. It will not be able to provide stability.”
Foreseeing another coalition government, National People’s Party (NPP) leader Conrad K. Sangma, who sought re-election from Selsella constituency in West Garo Hills, said the party is likely to get more than 15 seats.
“We are hopeful that our tally will increase as we have worked very hard to defeat the money power of the Congress,” Conrad said whose party had fielded 32 candidates. He also said discussions between the NPP and “like-minded parties” for a post-poll alliance will be held soon after the poll results are declared.
In the case of a hung Assembly, smaller parties and Independents will play a major role in the making and unmaking of chief ministers and governments. The kingmakers may just turn out to be more than kings themselves.