As a win at the May 28 by-election at Ampati in Meghalaya is essential for the ruling NPP, the election has suddenly become a do-or-die political battle for former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.
The by-election is being held because Mukul Sangma vacated the Ampati seat after he registered victory in two constituencies – Ampati and Songsak in the last assembly election. He has retained Songsak constituency.
As a Congress candidate, Mukul Sangma had five consecutive victories at Ampati. But, the decision to vacate the seat came as a bolt from the blue for the electorates, which is a blend of tribal Garo, Hajong and Koch communities. There are some Bengali-speaking Hindu and Muslim voters as well in the constituency. The constituency has 28,699 voters.
The Congress has now nominated Mukul Sangma’s daughter Miani D Shira to fight against Clement G. Momin of the NPP. The BJP decided not to field any candidate in the by-election in Ampati, and will be extending support to the NPP. One independent candidate, Subhankar Koch is also in the fray. The contest is “direct” between the Congress and the NPP.
Victory is essential for the ruling NPP because the party is keen to increase its numbers in the 60-member Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. At present, both the NPP and the Congress have 20 members each. One more member can definitely give little more confidence and stability to the ruling coalition. The NPP-led coalition is supported by the BJP and three regional parties — UDP, HSPDP and the PDP.
Secondly, the victory is more important for NPP because Ampati is the strongest citadel of the Congress, which former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma managed to defend several political onslaughts. The BJP had mobilized all its might during the last assembly election in Ampati, but Mukul Sangma had managed to win the seat with a record margin against Bokul Hajong.
This time, the NPP, has mobilized its best campaign managers to register victory of Clement G. Momin against Miani D. Shira of the Congress. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, who is also the National president of NPP, is also scheduled to be one of the key campaigners.
The NPP is more serious to register victory in Ampati because it will not only be a major setback for the Congress, but also will jeopardize Mukul Sangma’s political future in the constituency. For several years, Mukul Sangma has been seen as a “rival” by the NPP founder and former Lok Sabha Speaker late Purno Agitok Sangma and his family.
As the incumbent Chief Minister of Meghalaya is the youngest son of Purno Agitok Sangma, it is natural for him to eye for a “political revenge”. Mukul Sangma had also contested Lok Sabha election against late Sangma.
For Mukul Sangma, the by-election in Ampati is a do-or-die political battle not only because he would like to protect the Congress bastion, but the election result will also determine the political career of his daughter Miani D. Shira.
Moreover, if Miani D. Shira fails in the by-election, it will also be difficult for Mukul Sangma to return to the constituency in future.
For several years, Mukul Sangma not only managed to protect Ampati as a Congress bastion, but also always played a pro-active role to register victories of his wife Dikanchi D. Shira in Mahendragunj and younger brother Zenith Sangma at Rangsakona.
But, the fight is definitely not that easy for Mukul Sangma’s daughter this time in Ampati. Firstly, people are not happy that he suddenly vacated the prestigious seat. Though he has worked a lot for the development of the constituency, a section of the electorates feel that they have been left high and dry.
Secondly, Mukul Sangma’s daughter Miani D. Shira is a political green horn, and reportedly has limited understanding of the dynamics of Garo hill’s political theatre. The electorates have suddenly started feeling that she will not be able to deliver as an opposition MLA.
The ruling NPP is upbeat, and has claimed that Clement G. Momin will definitely win in Ampati. But, the NPP also should not forget that its candidate Clement G. Momin had lost against Mukul Sangma twice in the past.
The NPP is optimistic that that a section of the Koch electorates, who were traditionally loyal to the Congress, may support the NPP this time. One member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) Nripendra Koch has joined NPP and is definitely going to influence the Koch voters to support Clement G. Momin.
In the do-or-die battle, Mukul Sangma is definitely going to pull out all his punches to keep the Congress flag flying in its bastion. The electoral mathematics in Ampati is going to be interesting this time.