Away from the media glare, as four MLAs of the present House join BJP from Meghalaya, the state Congress president Vincent H. Pala also had a busy schedule in Delhi meeting up with important party leaders.
Pala was made Congress president in August 2021 – almost handpicked by Rahul Gandhi – and his elevation had resulted in an upheaval as former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma led his gang out and joined the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.
Pala is likely to contest himself from Sutnga-Saipung constituency in East Jaintia hills.
That Mukul was in a hurry and joining TMC was a possible act of ‘desperation’ that started coming to light soon. Yet former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma remains a strong force in the Garo hills and after the polls, he could still be an important player.
The talk in the corridors of power is at least 3-4 assembly seats, he is sure to win purely guided by his own personal charishma and family links.
Mamata Banerjee’s recent visit has added further confidence in the Trinamool Congress camp notwithstanding certain challenges.
Himalaya Muktan, a former TMC MLA, is a key catch for the BJP in the Khasi belt which has 36 seats.
Pala, who won the Shillong Lok Sabha seat consecutively three times in 2009, 2014 and 2019, is more than serious now to revive the grand old party. Aided by his colleagues Sanjay Das and Dr C. Lyngdoh (ex-state unit president), he met key leaders including Mukul Wasnik and also Congress in-charge for Meghalaya – Manish Chatrath.
Pala has support base in Khasi hills too, say Congress insiders.
“It is not going to be an easy fight as the Congress not only lost power in 2018; in 2021 we also faced desertion once the Mukul Sangma team and later the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) left the party,” said a Congress leader.
A letter was signed by CLP leader Ampareen Lyngdoh and her colleagues extending support to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s government.
Other MLAs were P. T. Sawkmie, Mayralborn Syiem, K. S. Marbaniang and Mohendro Rapsang. The Congress, which had bagged 21 in 2018 polls, is now faced with immense challenges and has no legislator in the House.
On face value, the NPP should have a big advantage.
But BJP’s ambitions and somewhat a ruthless way of dealings with its ally, NPP, have made things tougher for Conrad Sangma although his camp is still confident of doing well.
The NPP got the first taste of an ‘indifferent’ BJP on December 14 when two of their legislators elected in 2018 have joined the lotus outfit. Of course, Conrad must have done the calculation as the NPP MLAs Benedict Marak (Raksamgre) and Ms Fairlene Sangma (Selsella) would have been denied tickets.
The saffron party is playing aggressive games and is likely to repeat the ‘halo’ of the 2018 Tripura formula.
But unlike Tripura, things may not be very easy in pre-dominant Christian stronghold Meghalaya.
“PM Narendra Modi’s developments are like undeniable truth. But among the Christians, BJP is seen as an anti-Christian party. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the scene and here lies the faultlines. To convince the Christian world, it’s a hard task,” said a local political analyst, Anthony Herman.
But the BJP poll managers are not much ‘discouraged’ by such statements.
“We are working hard and we will deliver. If explained properly, the people of Meghalaya will appreciate that the BJP and our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji pursue only inclusive politics. I am a tribal and a Christian and never I found my politics as a BJP man stand against my belief as a Christian or against my religious practices,” M. Chuba Ao, BJP national vice president and Meghalaya in-charge said.
Sources said that recently in North Shillong assembly seat, M. Kharkrang, a Retd IPS officer, and also party spokesperson, gave a detailed explanation on the various schemes undertaken by the BJP-led government in Delhi and which has resulted in the “economic development of the people, especially the economically weaker sections.”
Chuba Ao also said: “Why should we not be more assertive? And why should we Christians not tell anyone and everyone that India is very much our own country. We belong to it as do people from other communities and Indian ethos are also our own and we too are part of it.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a one day visit to Shillong in Meghalaya and Tripura capital Agartala.
He already addressed two functions: Golden Jubilee function of North Eastern Council and one at IIM Shillong.
He will address a public meeting in Agartala later.
In February this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mocked Congress in Lok Sabha stating that Nagaland as a state voted for Congress 24 years ago, Odisha 27 years ago, Goa 28 years ago, Tripura – 34 years ago, and in West Bengal, people voted for Congress 50 years ago”.
Even diehard Congress supporters say that the biggest problem for Congress is that its ‘history’ of defeat and isolation is against it.(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views are personal.)