|(From left) Some of the candidates contesting from Shillong parliamentary constituency — CPI’s Richard D. Shabong, BJP candidate Shibun Lyngdoh, Independent candidate Rev. P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, Congress’s Vincent H. Pala and Independent candidates Ivoryna Shylla and Denis Siangshai
Shillong parliamentary constituency is up for grabs with several contenders at the hustings.
As the anti-incumbency factor has its own role to play in elections, current MP Vincent H. Pala of the Congress has a mountain to scale if he hopes to retain the seat.
From 1977 to 2009, the Congress has won seven times from Shillong parliamentary seat.
Pala, who is also a former Union minister of state, is up against seven other contestants — Shibun Lyngdoh (BJP), Richard D. Shabong (CPI), Paul Lyngdoh (UDP), Armerington Kharshiing (AAP), and Independent candidates P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, Denis Siangshai and Ivoryna Shylla.
Shylla, 65, is the lone woman to enter into the electoral ring. It is also for the first time in 10 years that the BJP has put up a candidate for the parliamentary polls.
Shillong parliamentary constituency consists of 36 Assembly segments spread across six districts with 968,958 voters in 1,633 polling stations.
Apart from Pala, Basaiawmoit and Siangshai also contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Five years back, there were 771,965 voters in 1,326 polling stations. Pala managed to bag 232,270 votes while his nearest rival, John F. Kharshiing of the UDP, polled 124,402 votes.
Basaiawmoit, who had then contested from the HSPDP, polled 97,613 votes while Siangshai, who was an Independent candidate, bagged 7,032 votes.
From the 36 Assembly segments, Pala had won in 30. He won in all the seven constituencies in the Jaintia Hills region, four in Ri Bhoi district, 16 in the East Khasi Hills and three in West Khasi Hills.
Kharshiing managed to win from Mawhati (in Ri Bhoi) and Pynursla (in East Khasi Hills) constituencies while Basaiawmoit had the edge in Nongstoin, Rambrai-Jyrngam, Mawshynrut and Mawkyrwat constituencies — all in the West Khasi Hills region.
In the present Assembly, out of the 36 constituencies in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region, the Congress had won in 16 of them in the 2013 Assembly polls. The UDP and the HSPDP had won in eight and four constituencies respectively.
The Congress also has an edge in the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council while the regional parties — HSPDP, UDP and KHNAM — are ruling the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council .
Moreover, while the UDP has put up its working president and West Shillong legislator Paul Lyngdoh in the fray, the HSPDP and the KHNAM are supporting Basaiawmoit.
While the UDP has considerable presence in all the 36 constituencies, the HSPDP has always been strong in West Khasi Hills and parts of the East Khasi Hills. The KHNAM, on the other hand, has a following in constituencies falling under East Khasi Hills.
The voting pattern in the Lok Sabha polls, compared to either the Assembly or the district council polls, is entirely different. Even the turnout of voters during parliamentary elections has never been encouraging.
Going by historical records, the fight for the Shillong seat has constantly been between the Congress and the regional parties — whether it was the now-defunct All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference (APHLC), the HSPDP, or the UDP. However, Independent nominees did find their way to the Lok Sabha on a few occasions.
With a chequered history, where no single party or candidate has been allowed to rule the scene ad infinitum, it remains to be seen to whom the electorate would give the flight ticket to New Delhi on April 9.
And yes, not to miss, the NOTA or the “None of the above” button would be the “ninth candidate” in this election.
The result of this battle for the flight to the national capital will be declared on May 16.