Meghalaya elections 2023: Old rivals face off in multi-cornered fight | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Meghalaya elections 2023: Old rivals face off in multi-cornered fight

ByDavid Laitphlang, Shillong
Jan 19, 2023 05:52 AM IST

The poll campaign in Meghalaya may be shaping up to be a contest between chief minister Conrad Sangma against his old rival Mukul Sangma. Only this time, the latter is representing new entrant TMC, and not the Congress.

The poll campaign in Meghalaya may be shaping up to be a contest between chief minister Conrad Sangma against his old rival Mukul Sangma. Only this time, the latter is representing new entrant Trinamool Congress (TMC), and not the Congress.

Before Wednesday's announcement of the poll schedule, an ECI team visited three northeastern states, including Meghalaya, to check preparedness.
Before Wednesday's announcement of the poll schedule, an ECI team visited three northeastern states, including Meghalaya, to check preparedness.

Also Read: 2023 election cycle starts with 3 states next month

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Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) currently holds 21 seats in the 60-member assembly and will aim to become the first party to retain power in the state since 2013. Meghalaya votes in one phase on February 27, with the results scheduled for March 2.

Rumblings of trouble within the ruling six-party Meghalaya Democratic Alliance mean that all constituents of the ruling coalition are fighting the election separately.

“Allies respect each other. But, they (NPP) neither take our advice nor our strategy. They went on their own, even announced recently to fight alone. We started working out strategies on our own,” said a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, requesting anonymity.

The NPP brushed aside the criticism and Conrad Sangma accused the BJP of obstructing development of the state. Dismissing theories that anti-incumbency could make it tough for the NPP, party state president W Kharlukhi said, “There is a solid pro-incumbency sentiment. I would like to remind you that the NPP defied predictions to sweep all three seats in the November 2021 by-elections.”

The smaller constituents of the coalition – such as the United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democractic Party (HSPDP), People’s Democratic Front (PDF) – also remain firm on going alone. State minister Banteidor Lyngdoh, president of the PDF, said the party will do well. “We are confident that the people have seen our performance… will vote for PDF much more than in 2018,” Lyngdoh said.

Also Read: Decoding the electoral contest in three states

In 2018, the Congress under Mukul Sangma emerged as the single-largest party with 21 seats, falling just short of the halfway mark.

The NPP won 19 seats and formed the government with the support of the UDP (8), HSPDP (2), PDF (4) and BJP (2), along with an independent. Since then, eight lawmakers have joined the NPP.

On the other side, the Congress has largely faded away and doesn’t have a single sitting legislator in the state. In November 2021, Mukul Sangma led 12 Congress lawmakers to quit the party and join the TMC. The remaining Congress members then left the party to support the NPP.

“Lack of development and alleged irregularities in implementation of flagship programmes are main issues against the government. Thousands of vacant posts have not been filled. All initiatives taken up by the preceding government have gone down the drain,” said Mukul Sangma.

Eugene Thomas, a former pro vice-chancellor of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), said corruption was a major concern in the three main regions of Jaintia, Khasi and Garo Hills. “If Mukul Sangma and his friends had remained in the Congress, there was no chance for the NPP to come back to power. But, with the breakup and birth of the TMC, it’s anyone’s guess. The BJP may improve its position,” he said.

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