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Gathering storm: Congress now faces rebellion in Meghalaya

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

All is not well with the Congress in Meghalaya. The party's legislators have asked the central leadership to replace Chief Minister Mukul Sangma. They have blamed him for the recent bypoll loss in Tura, where Dikkanchi D Shira, the party's nominee who happens to be the chief minister's wife, lost by 1.90 lakh votes.

On his part, Sangma downplayed the rebellion. "Anything that revolves around the party is our internal matter and there is an internal mechanism which enables us to deal with any kind of challenge," he told the media.

The bypoll was won by the National Peoples Party's Conrad Sangma, son of late PA Sangma. The Congress has alleged that his victory was made possible by the RSS, which polarised the electorate by distributing "hate pamphlets". The party has even complained to the Election Commission about this.

A state Congress leader, however, disputed the official party line, saying the RSS has failed to make significant inroads in Meghalaya, though not for lack of trying. He pointed out that when BJP chief Amit Shah visited Shillong sometime ago, the people put up beef stalls to greet him. A banned armed group had even called for a 12-hour bandh during his visit to protest the "beef issue" and the alleged atrocities committed by the Sangh against minorities, including Christians.

The Congress leadership, though, is not taking the rebellion lightly, and has rushed Shillong MP Vincent H Pala to hold talks with the rebels. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has reportedly assured the legislators that the issue would be resolved soon.

Interestingly, Pala had to be sent to defuse the situation in Shillong because the Congress' Northeast in-charge V Narayanasamy is busy lobbying for the chief ministership of Puducherry, the only of the five states the party won in the recent elections.

"While chief ministers have assumed charge in the other four states, the Congress is still grappling with the issue of who would be the next chief minister. This shows exactly what is wrong with the party," said a senior Congress functionary.

Worse still, the functionary added, the job may go to Narayanasamy, who bungling of the handling of rebellions in Northeastern states has cost the party dearly. Indeed, during the Arunachal Pradesh crisis, rebel MLAs had held Narayanasamy squarely responsible for the mess the party was in. They had claimed that he didn't let them meet Sonia Gandhi while keeping her in the dark about the rebellion that had been brewing for a while.

Party leaders from other Northeastern states have levelled similar allegations, with some claiming that Narayanasamy only serves the interests of a selected few who are in powerful positions.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma's wife Dikkanchi D Shira lost Tura bypoll to Conrad Sangma by 1.90 lakh votes

Another central Congress functionary was equally critical of Narayanasamy, saying he didn't even contest the election but was now positioning himself as the frontrunner for chief minister. This functionary claimed that only five of the party's 15 MLAs in Puducherry supported Narayanasamy, so his claim is likely to be vetoed by Rahul Gandhi.

A decision is likely to be made after 28 May, when a team of observers, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and the party's state in-charge Mukul Wasnik, visit Puducherry on 28 May to get the opinion of the legislators. "After he messed up in the Northeast, Narayanasamy is now creating trouble in Puducherry. Why is he being entertained? His claim should have been rejected immediately," said a Congress elder. "He has become more a troublemaker than a troubleshooter."

It appears the Congress has not learnt any lessons from what happened in Arunachal and Uttarakhand, where dissidents destabilised its governments. While judicial intervention saved Harish Rawat's regime in Uttarakhand, in Arunachal the rebels formed their own government with BJP's support.

Now, apart from Meghalaya, rebellions are reportedly brewing in Manipur and Mizoram as well. Still, the Congress leadership is turning a blind eye towards the role of its central functionaries. "Remove Narayanasamy and give the charge of the Northeast to someone who understands the region, or else the BJP would ensure a Congress mukt Northeast, if not Congress mukt Bharat," the party elder said.

First published: 27 May 2016, 12:35 IST