Shillong: Regional parties are likely to play a key role in the upcoming Meghalaya elections. In a rare move, three of them—United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and Garo National Council (GNC)—have formed a pre-poll alliance.
In an interview, Paul Lyngdoh, senior UDP leader and working president of the party, spoke about why the alliance was formed and the prospects of regional parties. Edited excerpts:
What led to the alliance between UDP and HSPDP?
Traditionally, both the UDP and HSPDP have been at the forefront of regional politics in Meghalaya since the inception of the state. But we have also been perceived as traditional rivals trying to outdo each other and trying to occupy the electoral space. That has led to a split in the regional votes benefitting the Congress.
In a pre-poll situation, we have enough time to work out areas of respective strength and combine those strengths in the areas where the Congress is strong, which is why this time around we are very optimistic of this alliance making it to the halfway mark.
What do you think is the reason behind regional parties not coming together and forming governments in Meghalaya?
The first and the only regional government to have lasted five years was the APHLC (All Party Hill Leaders Conference) government in 1972... But, if you were to ask me why regional parties have not been able to work in tandem in the past decade, I think one has to appreciate the fact that in Meghalaya, the politics is more individual-centric rather than party-centric.
Today, we have come to the realization that we damaged our regional bastion and benefitted the Congress electorally. With that understanding, we have combined our strengths and forces to take on the national party.
In the past, UDP has also offered support to the Congress. What do you think has now changed in that equation?
In the past, it was more a matter of the party (UDP) not really having a choice. We did not have a choice and the party’s rank and file were not enthused; the party was on the brink of decimation. I think that became a major contributor to this decision.
But in the past 3-4 years, we have been able to infuse more energy to the party, more young leaders have joined and we had a very pro-active party in the opposition benches which is why we are very ready to take on the Congress.
What are your views on the National People’s Party (NPP)? If needed will you come together to form a government?
Electorally, we are pitted against each other in a good number of constituencies, meaning, therefore, that we have no choice but to also take on the NPP. But I think, it is very important to keep in mind that our (regional parties’) common cause is to oust the Congress which has a string of misdeeds and we have given Mukul Sangma enough time.
So you are not ruling it out?
As of now, our calculations are clear—that we are going to cross the halfway mark on our own. So let’s put it at that first. We will make sure that the Congress is not back at the helm of affairs.
UDP is a part of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). How do you counter the views of people that regional parties like yours or NPP will not go with the Bharatiya Janata Party post polls?
You have to see this with an ideological prism which is that we are votaries of regional politics where the nerve centre is either Shillong or Guwahati or Agartala. Ideologically, we are light years away from the ideologies that drive national parties so we would like to retain that spirit of regionalism. Given a choice, which we believe will be the mandate of the people, we will like to maintain equidistance from national parties and have a regional government in Meghalaya.