Meghalaya’s political stalwart PA Sangma and his opposition National People’s Party on Thursday made a strong comeback in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) elections defeating the ruling Congress party. Sangma’s alliance partner, the BJP which fielded six candidates opened its account in the autonomous council by winning a one seat in a straight contest in ZikZak constituency. BJP candidate Bhupendra .B. Hajong won the election defeating his rival Congress nominee Jogadish Ch Hajong by 935 votes.
Elections were held on Monday for the 29 seats of the 30-member GHADC amidst a boycott called by various pressure groups and a militant outfit to exercise their franchise in protest against the participation of non-indigenous tribals in the elections. The government nominates the remaining one seat.
The NPP which emerged as the single largest party with 10 seats, five short of a majority in the 30– member autonomous council. The Congress party secured seven seats, while the Garo National Council won three in the four seats where they have fielded candidates. The BJP and Nationalist Congress Party won one seat each in the election, while the Independent candidates secured seven seats.
Around 67.86% of the 590,456 voted in all the five districts of Garo Hills. Interestingly, only four opposition NPP members Dipul Marak, Sukharam Sangma, Boston Marak and Denang T Sangma retained their seats, while the council Chairman, Purno K.Sangma, Chief Executive Member Alphonse Sangma and his ten Executive Members bite their dust. Other prominent winners include Congress candidate and former Independent legislator Ismail R Marak, Sports and Youth Affairs minister Zenith Manda Sangma’s wife Sadhia Rani M. Sangma, who is contesting on Congress ticket and Nationalist Congress Party nominee Rightious N.Sangma.
“The people’s mandate is very clear that they are fed up with the Congress party. The people have given a befitted reply by rejecting all the GHADC Congress members for their non-performance and the alleged corruption activities,” NPP leader Conrad K Sangma said. Conrad also said that the NPP and the BJP along with other like minded political parties and Independents have decided to stake claim from Governor V.Shanmuganathan to form the new GHADC executive council since the people’s mandate is against the Congress.
“The GHADC results are a clear rejection the Congress party and it’s politics of non-performance. We ( NPP and BJP) are now working jointly to stake claim for the formation of the new executive council with other like-minded parties and independents,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said. Conceding defeat, Congress working president, Deborah Marak contended that one of the reasons of the poll debacle was anti-incumbency factor. However, she said that the party leaders would soon have a sitting to review the exact cause of the poll debacle.
A total of 162 candidates, including six women and 79 independents, were in the fray. The ruling Congress party has fielded candidates in all constituencies followed by the National People’s Party which is contesting 26 seats. The United Democratic Party has 14 candidates while the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is attempting to make inroads into the GHADC, put up six candidates. Four candidates each belong to the Nationalist Congress Party and the Garo National Council.
Five groups comprising Garo Students Union, Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, A’chik Youth Welfare Organisation, Association for Democracy and Empowerment and Federation for Achik Freedom had boycotted the GHADC elections. They were protesting against the participation of non-indigenous tribals in the elections, saying the creation of the district council in Meghalaya was aimed at protecting the interests of the indigenous people. Under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, Meghalaya has three district councils – the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills.
“We are against the participation of non-indigenous contesting and casting votes in the GHADC election as it goes against the very spirit of the Sixth Schedule. The very purpose of the Sixth Schedule is to protect the indigenous people,” GSU president Tengsak G. Momin said. Only the Congress and its rival the Purno Sangma-led NPP fielded non-tribal indigenous candidates in the elections.