Divide in parties set to reflect on voters too

NAT

Meghalaya, a state that already has a history of hung assemblies and patchwork coalition governments, heads this month for its most complex election yet, with parties divided within and vote-banks too likely to split as a result.

The current election has two defining features. One is the launch of a new party by the state's best-known political face, Purno A Sangma, a move that has split the NCP and threatens to divide the Garo vote-bank. The second is the number of chief ministerial candidates within the Congress, leaving the ruling party divided as ever.

Sangma, a former Lok Sabha speaker, has broken away from the NCP to launch the new National People's Party under the symbol of the elephant. The original NCP remains in the fray and has fielded 21 candidates. Sangma has fielded 32, and most of the old NCP hands have switched to his new party. Analysts say the NCP candidates are not in a strong position themselves but are likely to play spoiler to the NPP.

In the endlessly bickering Congress are at least five major players projecting themselves as chief ministerial candidates. These include the incumbent, Dr Mukul Sangma. The other aspirants include veteran D D Lapang from the Garo Hills, former minister P Tynsong, former chief minister Salsung C Marak from the Garo Hills and state Congress working president Deborah Marak, who will contest from the Khasi Hills. And because of the uncertainty, other Congress leaders such as R C Lalu from the Jaintia Hills too are vying for the chair.

"Each of these contenders has lobbied to get his supporters tickets," says an analyst. "As a result, five strong Congress MLAs and even a sitting minister have been dropped from the Congress candidates' list. A number of other strong contenders for Congress tickets, too, have also been ignored. This will hurt the party immensely as the MLAs dropped have a very strong following in their constituencies, and some have switched to regional parties or are contesting as independents."

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