Sangma battles Congress and an indifferent electorate in Meghalaya (Election Special)
Unlike the rest of the country, where the two principal national parties are waging a high decibel Lok Sabha campaign, the lack of issues in the two constituencies in Meghalaya has translated into a battle of personalities - particularly in Tura where nine-time MP Purno Sangma is ranged against the Congress' Daryl William Cheran Momin, who is fighting for change
The electoral battle between the former Lok Sabha Speaker and National People's Party (NPP) candidate Purno Agitok Sangma and Congress nominee Daryl William Cheran Momin is the main talking point in this pretty mountainous state of just three million people with political parties trying to work out campaign schedules to instil enthusiasm amongst indifferent voters.
"The electoral battle in Tura parliamentary constituency that for political supremacy, although, the veteran politician Sangma has a slight edge over the Congress candidate because of his political experience," said Pillar G. Momin, a political science student.
Sangma, a former Lok Sabha speaker and candidate of the National People's Party (NPP), is banking on an electorate of 584,070 spread across 24 assembly constituencies to return him to parliament since the majority of the Garo populace are fed up with the the ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government for its failure to tackle the burgeoning militancy problem.
"During my election rallies across Garo Hills, the people have voiced their concern and lost hope with the Congress government for the deteriorating law and order situation in Garo Hills and the empty promises made by them. Therefore, the electors have assured me of their votes," Sangma told IANS.
The tribal Garo leader started his political career as a Congress activist. He first won the Lok Sabha elections from Tura on a Congress ticket in 1977. The constituency is now represented by his youngest daughter Agatha K. Sangma, a former minister of state for rural development at the centre.
For a brief period from 1988 to 1990, Sangma was Meghalaya's chief minister and he was the candidate of a section of the opposition in the last presidential election against Pranab Mukherjee.
The Congress doesn't seen too worried. "I am confident that we will win this election as people are looking for a change and there will be change. He (Purno) is a well-known politician, but everything has its time and time for change has come," Daryl William Cheran Momin said.
The 27-year-old, who has a masters in business administration from Australia's Bond University, is the grandson of Meghalaya's first chief minister, the late Captain Williamson A. Sangma, while his father, Fersen Cheran Momin, was once an elected member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC), a powerful constitutional body.
"The desire of the people for the change is witnessed in the huge turn-out at my election rallies across the Garo Hills. Therefore, I am confident that the Congress party will win the Lok Sabha elections from Tura," Momin contended.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said: "I am pretty confident that our young and dynamic Congress candidate would win hands down."
"We are working very hard (to win the election). There is a visible response from the people in the region towards the Congress candidate. The people have reposed faith in us due to our developmental initiatives and we are confident they will ensure the victory of our nominee," Mukul Sangma told IANS.
"Moreover, NPP's poor result in last year assembly elections indicates that the people have lost faith in Purno Sangma," he added.
Of the 24 assembly seats in the Garo Hills, the Congress holds 13, while the NPP has only two and the Garo National Council and Nationalist Congress Party have one each. Independents hold the remaining seven seats.
Balloting in the Tura and Shillong constituencies will be held on April 9.
(Raymond R. Kharmujai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 03-04-2014)