The Congress, after a series of reverses in the rest of the country and elsewhere in the northeast, is utilising all its resources to retain Meghalaya, where Assembly elections are scheduled on February 27.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, despite its posturing, is an unknown commodity in the Christian-majority hill State. In such a scenario, the hurdle before the Congress is a clutch of regional parties, two of them – United Democratic Party (UDP) and National People’s Party (NPP) – members of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
Both the UDP and the NPP have approached Mandate 2018 without any pre-poll alliance with the BJP. Their contention is that they are in NEDA for the sake of the region’s development, and alliance with the BJP is an option if the post-poll situation demands.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma’s Congress-led alliance government has had a roller-coaster ride marked by dissidence, leadership tussle and allegations of scams.
To top it, seven Congress MLAs had quit in the last six months to join the BJP and the NPP.
But Mr. Sangma managed to weather the storm to rule for almost eight years, carrying on from the second half of the previous term that saw a shift of power from a UDP-led alliance. In the process he became the second Chief Minister after Salseng C. Marak (1993-1998) to complete a term in a the State’s 46-year political history.
Byword for instability
Meghalaya has seldom seen political stability since it was carved out of Assam in 1972. The failure of most parties, national or regional, to get absolute majority has been a factor.
The Congress has ruled the State for 29 of the 46 years since the birth of Meghalaya. The regional parties ruled for more than 15 years while an independent – no other State has such an instance – ruled for 452 days in between.
Such has been the pull of satraps that Meghalaya has had to pioneer many strategies for political survival. The State had India’s first coalition government in March 1978, chose a chief minister by lottery and split a five-year term equally between two parties with the toss of a coin to decide which would rule first.
Having bucked the trend, Mr. Sangma is keen on the Congress forming a government on its own. “No one in Meghalaya wants a government that divides people or helps those into politics of hatred,” he said.
The Congress has fielded 59 candidates for the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly. Mr. Sangma is contesting two, his pet Ampati and Songsak in the Garo Hills.