Meghalaya bypolls: Congress banking on division of votes among rival allies

Decision to contest separately is strategic, say alliance partners

The Congress is banking on the division of votes among candidates fielded by the constituents of Meghalaya’s ruling alliance to consolidate its place in the hill State.

The party’s position in the State is relatively better than the other northeastern States. It has 17 seats, four less than the National People’s Party (NPP), which has the Bharatiya Janata Party as one of its several allies.

The grand old party hopes to add the three constituencies — Mawphlang, Mawryngkneng and Rajabala — to its tally in the 60-member House after the byelections on October 30.

The party’s hopes are riding on the possibility of the “non-Congress” votes splitting among candidates of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance partners fighting one another.

In Mawphlang, Congress candidate Kennedy Cornelius Khyriem is up against NPP’s Lamphrang Blah and United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Eugeneson Lyngdoh, a national footballer who hung up his boots to contest the seat which fell vacant following the death of his father S.K. Sunn.

The UDP is the second largest ally of the NPP.

The situation in the other two seats is no different. Congress candidate Highlander Kharmalki’s rivals in Mawryngkneng are the NPP’s Pyniaid Sing Syiem and Esron Marwein, an independent backed by the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement, which supports the NPP in the Government.

The confidence level of Congress is highest in Rajabala where its candidate, Hashina Yasmin Mondal faces candidates of three alliance partners — NPP’s Md Abdus Saleh, UDP’s Ashahel D. Shira and BJP’s Kingston B. Marak.

State Congress president Vincent H. Pala said the fissures within the ruling alliance could help his party. “Besides, the people are also frustrated with the irregularities and large-scale corruption by the NPP-led Government,” he said.

But the NPP and its allies said their decision to fight one another will not benefit the ‘divided’ Congress, an allusion to the reported cold war between Mr. Pala and former Chief Minister Mukul M. Sangma.

“We did not go for pre-poll alliance in the 2018 Assembly election, and we have stuck to this system for the bypolls. The decision to field candidates separately will not make any difference to our alliance,” UDP general secretary Jemino Mawthoh said.

State NPP president W.R. Kharlukhi advised the Congress and critics to wait for the results on November 2 to find out whether the alliance partners’ decision to contest separately was strategic or not.

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