Congress jostles strategy as Meghalaya throws hung house

RSTV Bureau
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi with senior leader Ahmed Patel at AICC headquarters,  New Delhi. Photo - PTI

File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi with senior leader Ahmed Patel at AICC headquarters, New Delhi.
Photo – PTI

Congress, which has been in power in Meghalaya for last 10 years, is looking in a fragile position to hold on to the state with a reduced tally. Congress won 21 seats, 10 behind the magic mark of 31 in 60-member assembly.

On the other hand, NPP – one of its principal opposition party in the state – is not far behind on 19 seats. BJP, which campaigned hard in the state could only manage to win just 2 seats.

With the results throwing no clear winner, the formation of next government now depends on the parties like United Democratic Party (UDP), People’s Democratic Front (PDF), which is leading on six and four seats respectively. The chunk of independents and other regional parties too may play a role.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister of the outgoing assembly Mukul Sangma conceded that the results were not on expected lines, but said he would keep his cards close to his chest with regard to the Congress forming government in the state.

“The results were not on expected lines, but I am still looking forward,” he told the news agency.

Asked if the Congress would be able to form government again in Meghalaya, Sangma said he would not like to reveal his party’s plan now. “I would like to keep my cards close to the chest,” he said.

Sangma, who is the chief minister since 2010, retained Ampati seat defeating his nearest BJP rival Bakul Ch Hajong by over 6,000 votes. He also won from Songsak constituency defeating his nearest National People’s Party rival Nihim D Shira by over 1,300 votes.

The Congress has rushed two senior leaders – Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath — to the north-eastern hill state to explore possibilities of forming a government.

It is reported that that Congress’s move comes in the wake of criticism in the past that the party was caught napping in Goa and Manipur, where despite emerging as the single-largest party it failed to form governments there.

Sources said Patel and Nath are holding discussions with party leaders in Shillong, including outgoing chief minister Mukul Sangma. Meghalaya is one of the five states currently held by the Congress. The other states are Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram and Puducherry.

Polling for 59 seats of the 60-member Assembly was held on February 27. A Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate was killed in an IED blast, which resulted in countermanding of the polls in one seat.

(With inputs from PTI)