Small is not powerful

Assembly elections in the Northeast in general, and Meghalaya in particular, have been characterised by an interesting trend the party voted into power is usually the ruling party at the Centre. Barring Tripura, this has happened in all the Northeastern states. Perhaps this stems from expectations of more liberal financial support to the state from the Centre. In Meghalaya, the Congress could not muster a majority in the 2008 assembly elections, but it formed a coalition government along with other regional parties.

In contrast to previous elections, the 2013 campaign has been a lacklustre affair. The difference is especially marked in the Jaintia Hills, where coal traders also jumped into the fray, sponsoring candidates. With the local trade in Jaintia hit by imports of cheaper coal, these coal traders are maintaining a low profile.

High-profile visits from both the Congress and the BJP have not been able to liven up the campaign. As for the electoral promises of the Congress, it has waved about a lot of populist measures the creation of new districts and civil sub-divisions, two more LPG cylinders in addition to the nine per year provided by the Centre, free computer tablets for schoolchildren above the ninth standard, 10,000 new jobs for women, 10,000 jobs for the youth, etc.

Meanwhile, the most prominent regional player, the United Democratic Party (UDP), has chosen to focus on clean governance. It also promises to strengthen the police administration, introduce separate women police battalions, bridge the urban-rural divide, revise the state education policy, decongest the state capital and other towns by encouraging the growth of satellite townships. It lays special emphasis on safeguarding the rights, privileges and traditions of the indigenous tribes. Of course, "protection and preservation of tribal identity" has figured invariably in the manifestos of all regional parties in Meghalaya since the first assembly elections in 1972.

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