Divide in parties set to reflect on voters too
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The number of independent candidates contesting the election is 122. That is high even for a state with a history of locally strong independents who usually win their seats and who often go on to play important roles in the formation of the government. Of those turned independents following the denial of a Congress ticket, many are looking at least to upset the equations if not to win their seats.
A senior leader in the United Democratic Party, arguably Meghalaya's strongest regional party, says the NPP and the Congress have split the vote bank down the middle. "Purno Sangma's party has split the Garo vote," the leader says. "But what is most interesting is that the Congress has now two teams — like for cricket and football. We have come to know that in many constituencies there are two Congress candidates, the official one and the district president contesting as an independent. This is going to cost the Congress."
Of those hoping to become Congress chief minister, the two strongest contenders are Mukul Sangma and DD Lapang, the UDP leader feels. And the analyst says, "Whichever leader manages to secure the highest number of seats through his supporters will be chief minister (if the Congress wins). This election will be one of individual politics rather than party ideology."
A number of Congress leaders have fielded, or at least attempted to field, proxy candidates from regional parties. So has the UDP. During the scrutiny of nominations, the state election commission identified and rejected dummy candidates fielded by the two parties in Nongstoin, Nestingdar, Nongdkhar and Nerius Syimlieh. Six other independents, believed to have been proxy candidates, have withdrawn their nominations.
23 February voting
14.90 lakh voters
60 Congress, 32 NPP,
21 NCP, 13 BJP, 50 UDP)