As Meghalaya prepares to celebrate India’s biggest festival –the Festival of Democracy – on February 27, it is only right for political parties, candidates and voters to highlight and focus on core issues that require attention.
The Meghalayan is travelling to different constituencies to feel the pulse and mood of the people as D-Day draws near.
The ‘Know Your Constituency’ series aims to highlight the ins and outs of a particular constituency – its people and their aspirations, its problems and lacunae, and its social and political dynamics.
The third episode of the series features North Shillong Constituency in the East Khasi Hills district.
North Shillong is known for many things – from being a commercial hub, housing one of the oldest educational institutions – Iewduh in the state to being home to one of the oldest schools in the city – the KJP Higher Secondary School.
Being the heart of the city, this constituency has been a hotbed of political agitations and intense curfews.
With elections right around the corner, the constituency is witnessing multi-disciplinary candidates vying for votes from a population that is cosmopolitan in nature.
>>North Shillong found its origins after the delimitation happened in 2013. It was a part of the bigger Jaiaw Constituency which later was divided into North and West Shillong.
>> Prior to the delimitation, regional parties like the Khasi Hynniewtrep Awakening Movement (KHNAM), United Democratic Party (UDP) and Hills People Union (HPU) always bagged the seat despite being a cosmopolitan area.
>>The first election in this constituency was held in 2013 when Congress’ Roshan Warjri, the first-ever candidate and female at that, emerged victorious.
>> In 2018, KHNAM president Adelbert Nongrum won the seat. Nongrum was the only representative from the party in the 2018 assembly.
>> In 2022, Nongrum resigned as president of KHNAM and joined Ardent M Basaiawmoit’s new party, Voice of the People Party this year to contest in the upcoming election.
A shopkeeper from Police Bazaar, while conversing with The Meghalayan, touched on the several issues that the constituency and his locality have faced over the years. While water isn’t an issue, the prevalence of drug smuggling within the area has increased besides youth participation in hooliganism.
“The sad thing,” he says, “is that the administration does not take into account the incidents and would let us deal with them on our own which becomes an even more difficult matter as we become targets of these groups.”
In Harijan colony, people yearn for running water as evidenced by them flocking to water taps by the roadside.
“Water here is scarce,” says one resident, “We would have candidates coming to this area promising free weekly running water but after the elections get over, the winning candidate would forget all about it.”
Apart from the water issue, the Harijan colony suffers from ill-kept drainage system which would result in floods during the rainy season.
Headman of Wahingdoh, R Marbaniang, popularly known as Bu Ron, spoke on the disbursement of the MLA scheme which could have benefitted the constituency had it been used properly.
“Money from the MLA scheme does not belong to the MLA; it is the taxpayers’ money after all and so it belongs to the people. Over the years, we have had representatives but development is seen nowhere in these compact constituencies. Come to think about it, we are known for being one of the educational hubs of the state apart from Laitumkhrah but over the years, our educational system has failed in all strata because of the lack of funds given by the government and negligence. There are several things that the constituency need to grow in terms of drainage, roads and the like for the long run but as we see, these are only repaired only when elections are at bay.”
Speaking of political parties and the numerous candidates campaigning in the area, Marbaniang says that the problem with these parties is that they forget the people and to serve them with dignity but instead they only preach and write long developmental promises only to fail the people when they become MLAs.
These are testing times and the people have spoken about the issues and problems that they face in the constituency, the only question now arises- Will the next MLA fulfill his promises?
DID YOU KNOW?
There are 27307 voters in the constituency, of which 13740 are males and 13567 are females.
North Shillong’s warring field is tougher than expected as eight candidates from different walks of life will go up against each other.
BJP’s candidate M Kharkrang, a former top cop coming to the fore makes it ironic as we know North Shillong’s bitter-sweet history with the cops.
Former Director of Health Services (DHS) and UDP candidate Dr Aman War raises a bigger question – If he comes to power what transformation would our healthcare infrastructure get?
TMC’s Elgiva Rynjah raises this notion – Can a female candidate take back the reigns from her male counterparts?
Another ex-government official in the fray is Ransom Sutnga, who is contesting on an NPP ticket.
We also have former BJP leader JA Lyngdoh, who will be contesting from Congress, and Michael Kharsyntiew, an independent candidate.
Interestingly, Michael Kharsyntiew was denied a BJP ticket for reportedly raising the issue of cash-for-ticket scam.
Aside from these, there is another intellectual in the fray – Rev. Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh.
Pyrtuh, a renowned columnist, will go up against the giants as a representative of KAM.
As the election nears, we are left sitting on the edge of our seats as these coming five years in North Shillong will determine the kind of facelift it will undergo.