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Meghalaya elections: Campus to campus, young voters in Shillong keen to ring in change

There are around 1 lakh new voters in Meghalaya in this election slated for February 27. Of them, around 45,000 are first-time voters in the age group 18-19.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Shillong |
Updated: February 20, 2018 8:24:50 am
Students at St Edmund College, Shillong. (Express Photoi: Dasarath Deka)

Aibian Marbaniang, a B Com fourth semester student of St Edmund’s College, is thrilled about casting her vote for the first time on February 27. But then, she is not sure whether the party she wants to vote for will be able to come to power in Meghalaya.

“I am convinced that the BJP is a better party. It is one party that is very active, and has brought about lot of changes in the country. I am surely going to vote for it,” Aibian said. “But then, it has fielded only 47 candidates against 60 seats. Moreover, if votes split between the BJP, National People’s Party (NPP) and the UDP-HSPDP combine, then the Congress will get the maximum benefit.”

Aibian thinks it is time the BJP made it clear that it has an alliance with the regional parties. “We have heard that the BJP has a secret understanding with the NPP and UDP-HSPDP. If it is true, then they should make it open so that the anti-Congress votes are not split,” she said.

There are around 1 lakh new voters in Meghalaya in this election slated for February 27. Of them, around 45,000 are first-time voters in the age group 18-19.

Aidian’s classmate Candy Majaw, however, is not excited over getting her voter I-card. “I have not found anything to be excited about the right to vote. There is corruption all over. Media is full of news about misuse of funds. Some of that money must be now used in the election. Whichever party wins, most people are of the same stock, and corrupt,” Candy said.

Alistair Nongbrih, a BA second semester student of the same college, on the other hand, is optimistic that there will be a new government. “I think Meghalaya is ultimately going to vote for change. The last government was a failure. They have failed to bring investment, create jobs and provide job-oriented education. A new government with the BJP as a partner will help Meghalaya get funds from the Centre,” he said.

In St Mary’s College, Marba Khongwar, a B Sc second semester student, is keen to cast her first vote. “I am happy I will be able to take part in the democratic process. I am also sure my vote will help change the government in our state,” she said.

Marba is unhappy that women and girls have become unsafe in Meghalaya despite its matrilineal society. “Every day you read about so many crimes committed against women and girls. Rape incidents are on the rise, and last year an MLA was arrested for allegedly raping a helpless village girl,” Marba said.

Her friend Margaret Lyngdoh wants a regional party government. “I like Conrad Sangma and his sister Agatha. They are young and capable. Even as a high school student, I was fond of their father P A Sangma. I think their party NPP should tie up with the BJP. The two are anyway allies at the Centre and in Manipur. They should take care that non-Congress votes don’t split,” she said.

BA second semester student Dajiedlang Kongwang thinks most MLAs in the present House did not do anything worthwhile. “Are there jobs for me and my friends after we pass out of college? I come from Pynursla, about 160 km from here, on the Bangladesh border. There is not even one college in our area, and most parents cannot afford to send their children to Shillong. Roads are bad across Meghalaya. The Congress government and present set of MLAs did not do anything. Why should I vote for them?” he said.

Afrin Ahmed, another BA student, wants to join politics after obtaining a university degree. “I am voting for change. But the problem is I don’t find the right candidate. Moreover, the parties have not been able to spell out exactly what they want to do for us, the future generation. I think I will join politics after passing out from the university,” she said.

Afrin, whose mother is a Khasi, is aware that Meghalaya has a high dropout rate. “Many children are not in school. Instead they are working. Look around in Shillong. Even at Police Bazar point, you will see at least half-a-dozen children who are selling cigarettes, bidis and gutkha,” she said.

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