Meghalaya polls: Congress single-largest but Advantage BJP
Amid the saffron surge in North East, Meghalaya threw up a hung Assembly. The Congress, ruling the state since 2003, emerged as the single-largest party with 21 seats but was far from the magic figure of 31 needed to form the government in the 60-member Assembly.
The Conrad Sangma-led National People's Party with 19 seats is at the second spot, emerging as a key player. Founded by late Congress stalwart PA Sangma, the NPP is a constituent of the BJP-led NDA at the Centre, but contested the polls separately.
The BJP, which scripted a historic win in Tripura, managed to win two seats. Contesting in 47 seats, the party won in South Shillong and Pynthorumkhrah. According to the the latest trend, the BJP's vote share went up to 9.8 per cent. In sharp contrast, the BJP in 2013 had lost its deposits in all the 13 seats it contested managing just 1.27 per cent of total votes.
Another NDA constituent, United Democratic Party (UDP), which contested the polls separately, has won six seats and is also expected to play a key role in government formation.
The race for government formation has already heated up. Asserting of forming a non-Congress government, the BJP has deputed its North East face and trusted strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Apprehensive of the rerun of what happened in Goa and Manipur assembly polls, the Congress too rushed two of its senior leaders, Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath, to Shillong for exploring possibilities of retaining power in the state.
Despite emerging as the single-largest party in both Goa and Manipur, the Congress was caught napping as BJP managed to form the government getting on board smaller parties and independents.
However, it appears to be Advantage BJP.
Both the NPP and the UDP are part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a political coalition comprising the BJP and regional political parties. In fact, NPP President Conrad Sangma has already hinted of allying with the BJP.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to form the government. People are fed up with the corrupt Congress government and looking for a change," PTI quoted Sangma as saying.
“In Meghalaya, a divided result is a possibility, we will see that a non-Congress government is formed there,” BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav told the media.
The UDP has also formed a pre-poll alliance with Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), which bagged two seats and the Garo National Council (GNC). Besides the smaller regional parties, Independents will also play a key role in government formation in the state that has not given a clear mandate to any party after the first elections in 1972. Congress has been running the government in the state since 2013 with help of Independents.
Battling infighting and anti-incumbency, the Congress tally came down to 21 from the 29 seats it won in 2013. Last December, five of its MLAs, including former deputy chief minister Rowell Lyngdoh, had resigned from the Assembly.
On the brighter side for the party, CM Mukul Sangma won from both Ampati and Songsak constituencies. He admitted the results to be not on expected lines but refused to divulge the party’s plan on government formation.
“I would like to keep my cards close to the chest,” Sangma was quoted as saying by PTI.
Patel, however insisted of the Congress having majority. “We have a clear majority in Meghalaya. We have a setback in Tripura in Nagaland, we will have to work on that,” he said.
We have a clear majority in Meghalaya. We have a setback in Tripura in Nagaland, we will have to work on that.: Ahmed Patel, Congress pic.twitter.com/RxxxB92TUZ— ANI (@ANI) March 3, 2018
In the likely scenario of the NPP forming government with the BJP and thers, the Congress will be left only with Mizoram in the North East. The party has lost three state governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal in the region since Narendra Modi led BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.
The polls were held on 27 February for the 59 of the 60 Assembly seats. Voting in Williamnagar constituency was countermanded, following the killing of NCP candidate JN Sangma.
Edited by Joyjeet Das