In a small, hilly state tucked away in India’s remote northeast, Hitler is out to try his luck at politics. So is Frankenstein.
Meghalaya, a predominantly Christian state, will vote for its 60-member state assembly on February 23. Three hundred and forty-five candidates representing several national and regional groupings are in the fray.
One of them is Adolf lu Hitler R Marak, contesting the Bajengdoba constituency in the Garo Hills area.
He has been active in Meghalaya politics for a while, even serving as a minister for a brief spell, before he lost the elections in 2003 to Zenith Sangma.
Five years later, Hitler defeated Zenith to return to the state assembly. And Hitler has had some strangely named company in the state assembly.
Candidates with names like Churchill, Roosevelt and Chamberlain won elections and became members of the Meghalaya state assembly in past years.
“A name means nothing to me. I will [vote for a candidate based on] what he can do for us.”
– Julia Kharkhongor, local voter
The eclectic names are “a social phenomenon, not related to elections”, Julia Kharkhongor, a local voter, said. “We have parents giving these funny names to children all the while in our society. Some of them grow up to contest elections,” she said. “A name means nothing to me. I will [vote for a candidate based on] what he can do for us.”
This year, a dark-horse candidate – none other than Frankenstein – is out to contest elections in Meghalaya.
Frankenstein Momin, like Adolf Hitler Marak, is a candidate belonging to India’s governing Congress party, which also rules Meghalaya. He is contesting the seat in Mendhipathar.
But as they say in Meghalaya, there is nothing in the name. “I dont think anybody with a funny name gets an extra vote or even extra attention,” said Indian historian David Syiemlieh.
Other analysts agree.
“I dont think there is any detailed explanation for these funny names. But the practice of giving funny names to children have been around for quite some time ,” says Joshua Thomas, regional director of the Indian Council of Social Science Research in Meghalaya capital Shillong.
“My wife is a doctor and she has found parents naming children Anasthesia just because that was needed during the delivery,” says Thomas.
Meghalaya is a beautiful hill state populated by three major tribes – Khasis, Jaintias and Garos – who are predominantly Christian.
The tribespeople love to laugh, even at themselves, because they believe laughing a lot will keep them hale and hearty and help them live long.
Meghalaya is full of “laugh clubs”, and people often give funny names to newborn children.
So, when the state goes to the polls, they will choose from candidates like Wonderlyne Lapang, brothers Founder Cajee and Sounder Cajee, Adamkid Sangma and Billykid Sangma, Predecessor Rumnong and Process Sawkmie. And, of course, Bomber Singh Hyniewta.
Then there are two candidates whose first names are both Hilarious. Hilarious Dkhar is contesting a seat in Narting as an independent candidate, and Hilarious Pohchen, also an independent, is running in Nongkrem.
A Romeo is also running . Romeo Phira Rani is running for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the East Shillong constituency, but tragically enough, there is no Juliet around.
Then there are the two Hopingstones and a Hopeful. Hopingstone Lyngdoh of the regional party HSPDP is taking on Adviser Pariong of the Congress at Nongstoin, while Hopingstone Masharing is running from Mawhati. And Hopeful Bamon, an independent candidate, is hoping to win from Sutnga-Saipung.
Field Marshal Mawphniang, from Umsning, lends a martial touch to the polls, while Moonlight Pariat and Finelynes Bareh, both independents, might bring some serenity to the hustings.
Where else but Meghalaya will one find names like Ardent and Anvil? Ardent Basawimoit is contesting from Nongkrem, against Fairly Bert Kharrngi of the BJP. And Anvil Lyngdoh is running in Mawshynrut constituency against a number of other candidates including Methodius Dkhar, Witting Mawsor, and Livingstone Marak.
Boldness Nongum is contesting from the Mawthadraishan constituency, Pillarson G Momin from Raksamgre, and Secondson Sangma from Baghmara.
In Salmanpara constituency of South West Garo Hills, Winnerson D Sangma is campaigning against Righteous Sangma and Boston Marak.
And Coming One Ymbon, from Raliang constituency, is contesting on a Congress ticket .
The surnames here come from one’s tribal clans and are inherited, but in Meghalaya – which literally means “home of the clouds” – experimenting with first names seems likely to continue.
One should not be surprised if you have an Obama and Clinton, a Blair or a Bush, contesting elections in Meghalaya a few years from now.