Hitler to contest Meghalaya polls

Adolf Hitler and Frankenstein will be among the 343 candidates competing in the state elections this week in a region notorious for its bizarre naming conventions.

Other candidates in the Meghalaya state elections include Bombersingh, Boldness Billykid, Predecessor and Process. Hopingstone Lyngdoh, Hilarious Pochen and Hopeful Bamon had also thrown their hats in the ring, vying for the 60 seats up for grabs in the Meghalaya state legislative assembly.

What’s in a name? Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak (eft), a candidate for state assembly elections, speaks with a group of men as he campaigns in Bajengdoba in the northeastern state of Meghalaya. Pic/AFP

The peculiar names appear to have their roots in the country’s colonial past. Many Britons frequented state capital Shillong, preferring its temperate climate to the searing heat of the rest of India.

Historians say those former ties with Britain led to a convention of naming local children using random English words or famous names from the past, often without knowledge of their meaning.

“Often they don’t know the background of the names. They get attracted to these names for their quest of modernity,” said Sanjeeb Kakoty, a history professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong.

The stocky, balding politician Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak does not resemble his German namesake in appearance nor mannerisms, aside from his moustache. He believed his parents simply did not know who the historical Adolf Hitler was. “Maybe my parents liked the name. But I am not a dictator,” he said.

A member of the NCP, Hitler-Marak is contesting the elections from the constituency of Bajengdoba in west Meghalaya.  In the past, shops and restaurants named after Adolf Hitler have been forced to change their names after facing protests.

Hitler-Marak, however, has never had any such problems — an acknowledgement by the state’s 2.9 million citizens that a dubious name does not a dubious character make. Previously named victors in the elections have included Churchill and Roosevelt.

“Parents may christen their children funny names, but as long as the candidates perform their duties, we have no problem,” an imaginatively titled trader, Class One, said. “What’s in a name?” he asked. Election results will be announced on February 28.  

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