In poll-bound Meghalaya, ruling Congress fighting a battle within

Defections by seven MLAs and the CBI booking a minister rattles the party ahead of the elections

Published: 07th January 2018 10:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2018 10:35 AM   |  A+A-

CBI has filed an FIR against state PWD minister Ampareen Lyngdoh in a graft case

GUWAHATI: The ruling Congress in poll-bound Meghalaya is fighting a twin battle. The recent defections by seven MLAs and the booking of a minister by CBI have left the Congress in a spot of bother ahead of the polls, due in three months.

As if the defections were not bad enough, the CBI on Thursday booked state PWD minister Ampareen Lyngdoh in connection with alleged manipulation of score sheets in the recruitment of teachers in 2008-09.

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An FIR was registered under IPC sections related to forgery, criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust against

Lyngdoh, who was the education minister when the alleged scam took place. And with defections of some more MLAs looming large, the party will have to set its house in order by quelling dissidence and refurbish its image.

The Congress, which heads the state’s ruling alliance, has been plagued by a rebellion. The seven MLAs parted ways as they were miffed over alleged corruption in Chief Minister Mukul Sangma’s government. Five others, including four independents who were supporting the Congress, resigned over the past few days.

Two parties gaining from the developments are P A Sangma-founded National People’s Party (NPP), which now his son and Lok Sabha member Conrad Sangma heads, and the BJP. Eight of the 12 MLAs, including three independents, defected to the NPP. BJP got the remaining four.

Some people view the rebellion as the handiwork of the BJP; breaching the unity of a ruling party has become game for the saffron party in the Northeast. The Congress says BJP’s hand has been always there, as evident from the MLAs’ defections to it and its ally NPP.

“We are not at all worried, the people of Meghalaya have always been there with the Congress. People are going away from us but people are also coming to us. Soon, you will see fresh blood in two IAS officers and some engineers joining us,” Congress MP Vincent H Pala, who was recently appointed working president of Meghalaya PCC, told The Sunday Standard.

He believes Lyngdoh’s booking will not hurt the Congress. “Law will take its own course. She says she has done nothing wrong and now, she has to prove it in court. Her booking doesn’t mean her indulgence in wrongdoing,” he said.

Pala said even in the 2013 elections, Opposition parties had tried to score brownie points by raking up the alleged scam, but eventually the Congress formed the government.

While the Congress has ruled the politically unstable state for most part, the general perception is that it will be a neck-and-neck fight between the grand old party and the NPP, which is backed by the BJP.
Addressing a rally in Shillong recently, Union minister KJ Alphons said, “We will throw out the most corrupt government in Meghalaya. Mr chief minister, your days are numbered. This is just the beginning.” Earlier, four MLAs, including a Congress minister, joined the BJP.

The BJP is on song by its poll successes in Assam and Manipur. However, it is different in the Christian-majority state where the BJP is seen as a “Hindu party”. With no MLA in the 60-member House, the BJP is only trying to grow in the state. The upcoming polls will give it an opportunity to leave an imprint. Aided by the RSS, it is trying to spread its tentacles to pockets.

Congress takes it slow and easy

Barring Meghalaya, the Congress does not appear to be too aggressive in the three north-eastern states that will have polls in March. In Tripura, which has been under CPI-M-led Left Front since 1993, the Congress has revamped a few panels but is hardly a force to reckon with while the BJP is hopeful of making inroads. In Nagaland, a small rejig in the state unit can hardly bring the desired results for the grand old party. CP Joshi, AICC in charge of the north-eastern region said he was hopeful the party would do well in the coming polls.

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