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In Meghalaya, election is one big family affair

Across political parties, several members from a family are contesting the assembly election.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2018 16:43 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Meghalaya,Assembly election,Mukul Sangma
A combination of photos of members of different families contesting in the Meghalaya assembly elections this time. The voters’ view of the “family politics” will be known on March 3, the counting day.

Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma is a busy man. He is fighting a tough battle to ward off the BJP to ensure another term for the Congress in the Northeastern state.

The voting for 60-member assembly is to be held on February 27 and to ensure that the party gets past the majority mark of 31, the 52-year-old Sangma is contesting two seats — Ampati and Songsak, a first for him.

His family members are doing their bit as well.

The chief minister’s wife, Dikkanchi D Shira, is seeking re-election from Mahendraganj on a Congress ticket.

Sangma’s brother, Zenith, is in the running from Rangsakona and Zenith’s wife, Sadhiarani M Sangma, makes her electoral debut from Gambegre. Both are Congress candidates.

The state’s first family’s poll-run in not an aberration. In fact, the assembly election is one big family affair in Meghalaya, where 55 of the 60 seats are reserved for scheduled tribes.

Family and tribal ties, obviously, play an important role in swinging poll fortunes, a trend causing a concern.

“So many candidates with family ties getting party tickets just shows that these politicians want to appropriate more powers within the family. It’s not even democratic anymore and is kind of oligarchy,” said Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times.

Another Sangma family — the one of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma — is in the race. The late leader’s elder son James is contesting as the National People’s Party (NPP) candidate from Dadenggre.

The party, which is an ally of the ruling NDA at the Centre but has not tied with the BJP for the state election, has fielded James’s sister, Agatha, from South Tura.

In South Tura, there is a battle within the family as well.

Agatha’s cousin, Aanamika G Momin, is going up against the 37-year-old former MP as an Independent candidate.

Meghalaya’s richest candidate Ngaitlang Dhar is seeking re-election on NPP ticket from Umroi. His brother and former minister, Sniawbhalang, is looking to retain Nartiang.

Two more family members are in the fray as NPP candidates --- Dhar’s 25-year-old son, Dasakhiatbha Lamare, from Mawhati and Sniawbhalang’s brother-in-law, Wailadmiki Shylla, from Jowai.

Former minister Donkupar Massar is also seeking re-election from Ranikor, but as an NPP candidate. His wife, Grace Mary Kharpuri, is the candidate of rival party the People’s Democratic Front from Pynursla.

There’s a father-daughter duo in the mix as well. PM Syiem and his daughter, Teilinia S Thangkhiew, are contesting as Hill State People’s Democratic Party candidates from Mawphlang and Mylliem seats.

Adding to the numbers are former Meghalaya speaker Charles Pyngrope and his son, David Nongrum, both Congress candidates from Nongthymmai and Mawryngkneng.

“This kind of family politics is bad for the state and there should be a debate among voters on whether such candidates should get votes. But sadly most voters don’t seem concerned,” said Agnes Kharsiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organisation, a Shillong-based NGO.

The voters’ view of the “family politics” will be known on March 3, the counting day.

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 16:36 IST