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Fearing a repeat of Manipur and Goa, the Congress on Saturday rushed its three finest post-election negotiators to Meghalaya to stake claims to form the next government in a total hung situation.
Senior leaders Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath and Mukul Wasnik reached Shillong on Saturday evening, and have started their homework to prepare ground to select the legislature party leader and stake claim of the government.
The Congress has won 21 seats in the 60-member house. However, election was held for only 59 seats, following death of one candidate in Williamnagar constituency. In all possibilities, the Congress is all set to select Mukul Sangma again to be the leader of the legislature party.
The BJP also rushed its smartest representative, Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to outwit the three veteran Congress leaders to woo support of the regional parties – UDP, PDF, HSPDP, KHNAM and one independent MLA.
The three regional parties and independent MLAs hold the key to power in Meghalaya. Interestingly, though the BJP won only two seats, the saffron brigade will heavily depend on the NPP to keep Congress away from staking claim to form the next government. NPP has registered victory in 19 seats.
“We are confident to form the government in Meghalaya,” Ahmed Patel told Northeast Now minutes after reaching Shillong. The Congress high-command is trying to paint the BJP and its allies as “anti-Christian” to woo their support in forming the next coalition.
It is essential for the Congress to forge a quick alliance with the regional forces to save its bastion from the saffron onslaught in Meghalaya. The Congress has been in power in Meghalaya since 2003 barring a year-long rule by the United Democratic Party in 2008-09.
Despite a strong anti-incumbency wave and dissidence, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has strengthened his hold on the Congress during the last eight years, and managed to register victory in 21 seats in the assembly election. Several Congress MLAs had left the party and joined BJP and the NPP.
The BJP is likely to project NPP president Conrad Sangma or former union minister Agatha K. Sangma as the CM candidate of the NDA coalition, and forge alliance with the regional forces. The PDF has reportedly agreed to extend to support the NDA with a few pre-conditions.
Nalain Kohli, BJP secretary and in-charge of Meghalaya claimed people voted against the Congress, and there is a strong possibility that the regional parties will support the NDA.
However, Kamal Nath claimed, the Congress will stake its claim to form the government on Saturday late evening. He accused the BJP of using money power to keep the Congress out of power in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma said the election results were not on expected lines. “I am still hopeful of forming the next Congress-led government in Meghalaya,” he said, adding that he would like to keep the cards close to the chest.