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Will Meghalaya vote for Money power? Here is what the voters say

By Shweta Raj Kanwar | February 24, 2018

The role of money in the Indian political scenario is one factor that can bring a party to power or may even lead to its downfall and its influence is not something new for the people. As the three Northeast Indian sates- Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya are at a crucial juncture with the ongoing Assembly Election processes, the amount of seizures of huge quantities of cash in poll bound states becomes a matter of prime concern which makes us wonder whether Meghalaya is going the Arunachal and even the Nagaland way where use of money, muscle and even liquor plays a deciding role among many sections of voters.

As Meghalaya goes to polls on February 24, it may be recalled that in the past few weeks, just after the Election Commissioner of India’s visit to the state, huge quantities of cash has been recovered from many parts of the state. Citing some instances here:

On February 19, Rs. 17 lakh cash was seized from East Jaintia Hills. Prior to that, on February 14, it was informed that Rs. 14 lakh cash was seized from in and around the state. It is a known fact that as per ECI guidelines, no one is allowed to carry cash above Rs. 50, 000 but yet, such recoveries had raised eyebrows among the people of poll bound Meghalaya. Apart from this, a huge consignment of CGI sheets was also seized and these are just those cases that have been reported. This clearly shows that the use of money to lure voters is definitely a trick that works out pretty well here.

TNT- The Northeast Today spoke to some concerned voters in Meghalaya and here is what they have to say:

Dr. Valentine B. Sohtun:  The criminalization of politics and the use of money power in politics is not unique to Meghalaya alone or India as a whole for that matter. It is present in western democracies and in other third world countries as well. What makes India stand out is, that it has the largest and the most diverse electorate in the world composed of various ethnicities and religious communities. This has given politicians a chance to slice and dice the electorates at their whims.

Meghalaya, despite being a small state, has three major ethnic communities and several minor ones which again amongst themselves, belongs to several religious communities and to different denominations of a particular religion. This has fueled a high level of political competition.

ALSO READ: Meghalaya Elections: Political campaigning or holidaying Sir? Asks the Media!

Elections in India are a costly affair. Though there is a ceiling to the expenditure of a candidate there are no limitations to the expenditure of a political party. The involvement of Money power in elections happens because of two factors:

Firsty, as elections are growing costlier, Political parties are desperate to identify candidates with deep pockets, this has led them to identify wealthy individuals with dubious reputations.

Secondly, the voters have their own reason to support candidates who are wealthy or who has a questionable past. As the Government is unable to fulfill its basic responsibilities, the voters seek refuge in a Strongman who can deliver what the government has failed. In short, there is a huge gap between what the citizens’ demands from a state and what the state can deliver.

This is further fueled by the fact that many politicians have made politics their family profession; they accumulate wealth while in power and invest their assets where they can avoid scrutiny and earn decent returns. Buying voters to remain in power is an investment.

The use of money power in elections is a subvert of democracy, and this will continue as long as there is no upgrade in governance. This means that the government must use its resources, personnel and other things to dispense justice, public service and public security. This cannot happen overnight. Steps must be taken in the right direction to ensure that there is no money power involved in elections so as to prevent criminalization of politics.

Badandor Deingdoh– Money does indeed play a huge role in Meghalaya’s politics especially during elections there was a time when money could impact the entire state universally during elections but now that’s not the case anymore. Just look back at the last elections! You’ll see rich powerful people being pinned down by the newbie now. Even some powerful sitting MLAs were being uprooted. Money had no role in these results. It was surprising yet refreshing. Now I think a great percentage of our voters have reasoning power and can propel their thoughts far into the future and not just about that 500 bucks and free booze and a grand picnic after winning. But yes,  location is also a factor, because I think the mentality of people can vary from place to place within the state.

Kumar Thapa– Cash for votes is not a new thing in India. With numerous reports surfacing about cash seizure all around the state by the police from individuals and supporters of political parties and candidates in Meghalaya one can only wonder as to how long is its reach to persuade an average voter to vote in their favour. I don’t know how does a voter evaluate their vote in exchange of money but the political parties/candidates do take the money factor pretty seriously. Otherwise why would there be a competition in bribing their potential voters!

It’s so hypocritical of some parties to accuse another of trying to bribe the voters but the reality is every party would do the same if they had the required money power. If nothing can convince, money surely does. This is especially true in one of a kind of such cases.

Remember the Cash for vote scam of 2008 that embarrassed our nation in the international arena? When high and mighty people like Opposition’s BJP MPs can be bought by Congress to vote in their favour in order to survive a Confidence motion in the parliament, how will the general public fare in their evaluation as a free voter!

The majority of voters in India are either poor or middle class citizens where easy and fast money is a constant motivator by default. The candidates/ political parties always want to and to a great degree have actually capitalized on it every time they saw an opportunity. Cash for vote is here to stay for a long time unless our people are economically empowered and uplifted. But I wonder whether we will ever be economically independent when the politicians of our country feed and thrive in their political life by keeping a percentage of the population always under poverty line!

If the people of India move towards economic independence and freedom will the political parties have any relevance as far as the well sold issues and agendas of poverty and economy are concerned?

Ravinder Singh Bhandari– Democracy is wonderful manifestation of equality. Whether the richest person of Shillong or poor Kwai seller has been given one vote each. Election is also time when voter is reminded of his power Business models are made and experimented in Harvard. But money, muscle , cast ,religion Models are well made and experimented on Indian election turf.

The aim of all above is same- to deny “ONE MAN ONE VOTE”, taken from constitution of Temple of democracy. The model is simple..Buy the vote of individual, family, locality just a week or 2/3 days before elections, pump money, put people under influence of liquor, muscle power bought out of money and with collective votes bought under influence win elections. The money taken from financers including big businessmen is then given back quid pro by making policies in favour of them crushing the very same who were bought and essential in winning votes. I Wish the poor, innocent voter understands this” Indian Election Model” and votes with a sole aim to select right candidate who works for betterment of people, society, state and Nation. Illiterate, emotional and fools we are and shall be used by Political parties and Netas till we become wise. Waiting for that day….

The interviewer can be reached at shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com and shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

OPINION | Political campaigning or holidaying Sir? Asks Shillong Media!

Shillong | February 23, 2018

Poll bound Meghalaya is on a spree these days. With just 3 days to go for the election, politicians are leaving no stone unturned to woo voters as well as media people by holding daily press conferences with the press fraternity, rallying door-to-door in localities and taking up people’s grievances like never before. While politicians are expected to be media friendly at this crucial juncture where one’s act can make or break the image of a party, it seems some politicians, instead of campaigning are on a holiday spree to the Scotland of the East, Shillong!

Well everyone knows Shillong is a hill station and its scenic beauty is incomparable. Of late, several star campaigners of different political parties have visited Shillong but it should be noted, however, that in the name of campaigning, some ‘star campaigners’ seems to be holidaying in Shillong with family as they seek ‘free space’ when candidates are working round the clock to reach out to their electorates.

A ‘Grand Old’ Unison- Rahul Gandhi wins hearts across generations!

TNT Desk | February 21, 2018

He might seemingly strike a cord with the youth across India but it does not just end there because the old are not far behind. And for someone who has had a special connection with the Gandhi family, Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Meghalaya on February 21 was something that could not be missed at any cost!

The lively lady in her nineties eagerly awaited the arrival of the man who is now the face of the oldest national political party but the irony is that he himself is not too old.  Rahul Gandhi may personally not have a very strong connection with Peggy Martin but the lady shares a three generation bond with his family!

From Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi, Peggy who was a former nurse has met them all.

It may be mentioned that Rahul was in Shillong today to take part in the campaign in poll bound Meghalaya which is scheduled to vote on February 27. And when he learnt about Peggy, he could not help but ask to specially meet her on his visit. In an adorable gesture, he also reportedly enquired about her favourite pastries so he could give them to her. After all, how could he not uphold the three generation bond between the Gandhis and Peggy!

That look on Peggy’s face when Rahul Gandhi opens up her favourite pastry box!

Talking about Peggy Martin, an Anglo-Indian, she initially worked as a nurse in Delhi whereby she met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 when the first Prime Minister of Independent India addressed nurses following the Sino-Indian war. It was learnt that she later took up an assignment with the Tripura Royal Family which perfectly explains the strong bond shared between her and the royal scion Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman.

Nine years later in 1971, she met Indira Gandhi, the period before Tripura became a state. This happened when Peggy accompanied the then queen of Tripura Bibhu Kumari Devi, wife of Kirit Bikram Manikya for the meeting.

And again after 18 years in 1989, the royal couple of Tripura met Rajiv Gandhi along with Peggy as an essential member of the family.  And then again, after 28 years in 2017, she has met the Gandhi scion with the Royal Tripura Scion ofcourse!

The lady in her nineties is the life of Tripura Castle situated in Cleve Colony, Shillong. Though aged and fragile, her chatter echoes through the walls of the castle which otherwise held a silent inhibition a few months ago when she was taken seriously ill in 2017. Nursed back to health by Pradyot, Peggy holds him dear to heart and is busy preparing fish curry for him while we sit in the castle learning about her life.

The scene could almost be captured forever in the eyes of those present to witness the unison of the Grand Old Party leader and the Grand Old Party Supporter.

Sometimes, it’s not just about politics – often it is also about a connection, one that pulls certain strings and strikes a cord between certain people that help them fulfill aspirations, however small they may seem, that brings a smile on the faces of many. As Meghalaya goes to polls on Tuesday, whichever party may win or lose, at least one small wish has been fulfilled

Smiling with sparkling eyes, Peggy gracefully leaves the room to check on her fish curry, closing the door behind her!

Did Shillong miss ‘Smart City’ tag yet again?

Shillong News Desk | Shillong | February 22, 2018

As Meghalaya and Nagaland gears up for Assembly elections 2018 on February 27, the last leg of rallies and campaigns are in full swing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a visit to Nagaland and Meghalaya today.

During his visit in the Tuensang district of Nagaland, the PM spoke about the govt’s smart city programme.

He said, “Centre will step forward to spend Rs 1,800 crore to develop Kohima as a smart city”, while adding, “The eight cities of the Northeastern region selected as Smart Cities are: Guwahati (Assam), Imphal (Manipur), Agartala (Tripura), Kohima (Nagaland), Aizawl (Mizoram), Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Gangtok and Namchi (both Sikkim).”

Shillong’s sad love affair: The ‘Traffic Lights’!

Shillong News | February 20, 2018

The city of Shillong never lagged behind when it comes to technological advancement but the sad part of it is its ‘momentary nature’. The government aimed at taking this hilly region to whole new levels with the introduction of automated traffic posts but after the sanction and allocation of huge funds, the project never saw the light of the day. Posts were installed but were dysfunctional from the word go…leaving hopes being crushed like grapes! This became one of the most humiliating ventures of the Meghalaya Government.

ALSO READ: 5 Things to do in Shillong!

By Nawaz Yasin Islam

The famed yellow posts to beautify the city remains a topic of endless ‘cigarette and tea gossips’ and much has been written and complained. With authorities drifting from this ‘greatly successful’ venture, the ‘timid’ population is left with ‘promises of a lifetime.’ It is nothing different from villages that are not electrified. The ‘bolt’ of electricity comes years after the installation of poles. We surely are in the path of progress.

The current state of affairs will ensure that Shillong never becomes a destination for the shooting of a sequel to Madhur Bhandarkar’s acclaimed Bollywood movie Traffic Signal. But who cares, Shillong can be the backdrop of a perfect spoof to the movie!

Meet Phoebe & Baljit from Shillong who are setting fast and furious goals for people

~~By Natasha Dkhar

“The thrill of Speed overcomes the fear of Failure”

The passion for speed,the love for cars and the thrill they seek in driving is what brought the duo together as a team to conquer new heights in one of the extreme sports in the world.The duo have left no stone unturned ever since as they with their mean machines are taking motorsport to a new level.The dynamic duo are none other than Phoebe Dale Nongrum & Baljit Singh Tedwal from Shillong.

In an exclusive interview with TNT-The Northeasttoday,the duo will tell us about their journey as partners and many more…

TNT: Give us a brief Bio about the two of you?

Baljit Singh Tedwal: I started out my Journey in Motorsport with Motocross in the year 1998. I have competed in 17 Motor Cross and won 13 podium. Then I started getting into Autocross later and won a few race and side by side I have competed in a few National Rallies and brought home 3 Wins for the Northeast … The passion that I had never stopped but grew more and more each day. As of now I am concentrating more on upcoming National Rallies..

Phoebe Dale Nongrum: I grew up having the Passion for speed, the love for cars and bikes. As I was growing up I would have these small drag Race, but as there was no platform for a woman in the Racing track in Shillong, I left town to pursue my studies and had been away for over a decade. But it is when I had returned back whereby some friends of mine had organized a local autocross event and asked me to give it a try.Without hesitation I said yes and ever since my journey in this extreme sport has continued.

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