Union minister of state for tourism and the BJP’s poll-in-charge for Meghalaya Alphons Kannanthanam said he is confident that the BJP will do well in the assembly elections in the state slated for February.
Said Kannanthanam to THE WEEK, “I cannot predict how many seats the BJP will win as it will then limit our party’s chances to only a few seats. We will contest in all the 60 seats with the sole intention of winning these seats. We will join with forces that want the present government in Meghalaya to be removed.”
Kannanthanam, recently, announced a package of Rs 70 crore for development of places of worship in Meghalaya. Prominent churches, temples and mosques in the state have been included under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Union government, where the ministry of tourism provides Central Financial Assistance to state governments for various tourism projects, subject to availability of funds.
“Meghalaya has incredible potential for tourism and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a vision for Meghalaya and a BJP-led government in the state can help fulfil it,” said Kannanthanam. He said there is no basic infrastructure in Meghalaya. “This can be created if there is an honest government in the state which is committed to the welfare of people in Meghalaya. It is only the BJP which can provide such a government,” said Kannanthanam.
Meghalaya’s Education Minister Deborah C. Marak said the Congress-led government in the state has been able to bring visible development in the past 10 years under the leadership of CM Mukul Sangma. She ruled out the BJP’s chances of making inroads into the state. “The BJP is not a factor in Meghalaya,” Marak said to THE WEEK, “We are confident of winning another term in the state.”
The BJP does not have a strong support in Meghalaya and the Congress is in power in the state for 15 years.
The National People’s Party, an ally of the NDA government at the Centre, has two members in the Meghalaya assembly. At a rally, the NPP’s chief, Conrad K. Sangma, said that his party will replace the Congress government in Meghalaya. NPP is also an ally of the BJP-led government in Manipur.
In the assembly elections to Meghalaya, held in 2013, the Congress won 29 seats, while independents won as many as 13 seats. The United Democratic Party—which is a part of the North-East Regional Political Front, a coalition of 11 political parties in the northeast—supports the NDA government at the Centre. It won eight seats in the 2013 elections in Meghalaya.
Of 18,30,104 voters in Meghalaya, 88,412 are first-time voters and 9,23,848 are women.
Said Amit Shah, BJP president, at a rally in Tikrikilla in West Garo Hills, on January 6, “Central funds are looted by the Congress government. Today, over 45 per cent of the youth in Meghalaya are unemployed.”
The BJP is aware that it cannot win the elections in Meghalaya on its own. The maximum that the saffron party can win is 10 to 12 seats. So, the BJP wants parties like the NPP and the UDP to emerge as a sizeable block, by winning over 20 seats, so that the BJP can form a coalition government in the state under the banner of the NDA.
Meghalaya was part of Assam till 1972. The wettest state in the country, Meghalaya’s official language is English. The other important languages are Khasi and Garo. Historically, the state has followed a matrilineal system, wherein inheritance is traced through women members of the family. Meghalaya has a majority of tribal population, with Christians constituting close to 80 per cent of the population.