Meghalaya saves Congress the blushes amidst saffron surge in NE ; Ruling Congress emerges as single largest party in Meghalaya

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From Dhrubajyoti Chakravorty

SHILLONG, March 3: When saffron brigade literally swept the two Northeast states in the hustings –Tripura and Nagaland, Meghalaya was on Saturday the saving grace for Congress.

However, the rock concert attended Congress president Rahul Gandhi ahead of the Assembly polls, doesn’t appear to have helped the party to magic mark 31 as anti-incumbency finally caught up with it.

Finally, Meghalaya got a fractured verdict although the ruling Congress emerged as the single largest party winning in 21 seats of the 59 Assembly constituencies, where elections held on February 27.

In 2013 polls, Congress had won 28 seats, which means this time it got seven seats less.

Opposition National People’s Party (NPP), an NDA ally at the Centre, which earlier had only two MLAs in the 60-House member, followed closely behind the Congress with as many as 19 seats.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could secure only two seats of the 47 the party contested despite aggressive campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and central ministers.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma won from both the seats – Ampati and Songsak – with a comfortable margin.

Sangma retained his home constituency by defeating his closest rival Bakul Ch Hajong of the BJP by a huge margin of 8104 and also defeating NPP sitting MLA of Songsak Nihim D Shira by a margin of only 1830 despite predictions that he would lose in both the seats.

His wife and brother also managed to retain their seats in Mahendraganj and Rangsakona respectively.

In a setback to the regional political parties like United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People Democratic Party (HSPDP) which had forged a pre-poll alliance in 36 seats in Khasi Hills region, most of their sitting legislators lost to new faces and first timers.

The UDP won from only 6 seats while its alliance partner HSPDP got only two seats.

Of the eight MLAs the UDP had earlier, only it’s chief Donkupar Roy, who is also leader of opposition, Metbah Lyngdoh and Brolding Nongsiej could retain their seats in Shella, Mairang and Mawthadraishan respectively.

The HSPDP on the other suffered a major blow when all its four MLAs including the party president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit lost in the just concluded Assembly polls.

On the other hand, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a former ally of the Congress, which fielded in 20 seats, could only win in one seat. NCP state chief Saleng A Sangma retained the Gambegre seat defeating Congress nominee Sadhiarani M Sangma, wife of cabinet minister Zenith Sangma by a margin of only 105 votes.

While People’s Democratic Front (PDF), a newly floated party got four of 26 seats it contested, the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) got one seat.

Only three of 80 Independents who contested the Assembly elections got elected.

Some of the prominent faces who won the elections include cabinet ministers – MM Danggo from Ranikor constituency and Ampareen Lyngdoh from East Shillong constituency.

Among prominent losers home minister HRD Lyngdoh lost from Sohiang constituency and the state assembly speaker AT Mondal (Phulbari).

Danggo defeated UDP’s Pius Marwein by a margin of 2002 votes while Ampareen defeated BJP’s Neil Antonio War by a margin of 6074 votes.

Former health minister AL Hek and former Assembly deputy speaker Sanbor Shullai, who both contested from the BJP, also managed to retain their seats in Pynthorumkhrah and South Shillong respectively.

Hek defeated PDF sitting MDC James Ban Basaiawmoit by a margin of 1418, while Shullai defeated Congress nominee Manas Chaudhuri by a margin of 5097.

Those who retained their seats also include three former cabinet ministers who are now NPP leaders – Prestone Tynsong from Pynursla, Sniawbhalang Dhar from Nartiang and Comingone Ymbon from Raliang.

Former Tura MP and NPP leader Agatha K Sangma also made her come back when she defeated BJP’s Billykid A Sangma, a former MLA by a margin of 1603 votes.

Her brother, James K Sangma also retained his Dadenggre seat by defeating IND Rupa M Marak by 2753 votes.

Of the total 32 female candidates, only Ampareen and Agatha were elected to the 60-member House.

Former bureaucrats who won the elections include Synstar Klas Sunn, a retired chief engineer of PHE department and Himalayan Muktan Shangpliang, who was a former IAS officer.

NPP, which won two seats in Garo Hills in 2013 election have significantly improved its tally. However, the biggest setback for NPP is the lost of sitting NPP legislator Nihim D. Shira, who lost to Mukul Sangma (Congress), with a margin of 1830 votes.

The prestigious South Tura constituency, which was once represented by late Purno Agitok Sangma, was won by former minister of state Agatha K. Sangma with a margin of 1603 votes defeating BJP candidate Billykid Sangma.

Sitting Congress legislator from North Tura Noverfield Marak of Congress lost to former Meghalaya Rajya Sabha MP Thomas A. Sangma of NPP. Thomas secured 6487 votes, while Noverfield secured 4391 votes. The margin is 2096 votes.

Mukul’s wife, sitting legislator of Mahendraganj Dikkanchi D. Shira won with a comfortable margin defeating BJP candidate Premananda Koch with 7861 votes.

Sitting Phulbari legislator of the Congress and speaker of Meghalaya assembly Abu Taheer Mondal lost to NPP’s S. G. Esmatur Momin.

Former chief minister Salseng C. Marak lost the election to Timothy D. Shira of NPP. A veteran Congress leader Salseng secured 4957 votes, while NPP’s Timothy secured 6720.

BJP failed to win single seat in Garo hills, where it contested in 22 seats. In Garo hills BJP’s national president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had campaigned for its candidates.

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