Congress crisis team in Shillong

Meghalaya only saving grace for party

March 03, 2018 10:46 pm | Updated December 01, 2021 12:38 pm IST - Agartala/ New Delhi

Kamal Nath

Kamal Nath

The results of the Assembly polls on Saturday confirmed the Congress’s worst fears in Nagaland and Tripura — a wipe-out.

In Meghalaya, where it has emerged as the single largest party, the party sent two of its best crisis managers — Kamal Nath and Ahmed Patel — to reach out to smaller regional players and Independents to prevent a repeat of the Manipur fiasco of last year where it ended up in the Opposition despite being the single largest party.

Damage control

“We are in touch with others [smaller regional players] and will comfortably form the government in Meghalaya,” Mr. Kamal Nath told The Hindu over phone.

Saturday’s results revealed that the voters of Meghalaya had, as expected, given no party a majority. The Congress, which was the single largest party with 21 seats, tallied eight fewer than in 2013.

“We are in a position to form a government in Meghalaya with the National People’s Party (NPP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP),” said BJP’s Tripura in-charge Sunil Deodhar, who had spent much of his time in Meghalaya as an RSS activist.

Short of majority

The NPP and the UDP are members of the BJP-led North East Development Alliance (NEDA). The combined tally of the three parties, which did not have a pre-poll alliance, is 27, four short of the majority mark.

Meghalaya Congress president Celestine Lyngdoh, who lost the Umsning seat, could not be contacted. But a State Pradesh Congress Committee leader said the greatest challenge for the party was to keep its flock together.

From 10 seats in 2013, the Congress not only failed to open its account in Tripura but also saw its vote share shrink to 1.8% from 36.53%.

Unsure of the Congress leadership’s stand towards the ruling Left Front, the party not only saw desertions by key leaders but also a decisive shift in the anti-Left votes to the BJP.

Strategy change

“What is more worrisome is that in Tripura, BJP was seen as the alternative and not the Congress. We need to alter our strategy and should not be seen as a B team of any party. We need to ensure that in a three-cornered contest, Congress emerges as the instinctive alternative,” Ashwani Kumar, senior Congress leader, said.

Party leaders in Nagaland and Tripura are unhappy with the central leadership. The party’s Nagaland unit chief Kewekhape Therie, who finished third in the Pfutsero constituency, once his pocket borough, was particularly critical of Congress general secretary in-charge C.P. Joshi.

“He had no time to campaign nor understand the sentiments of the people of Nagaland. When All India Congress Committee abandoned us, why shouldn’t the people?” Mr Therie said.

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