Cong set to lose Shillong, MPCC report claims

From CK Nayak

Party confident of wresting Tura seat from Purno

NEW DELHI: The Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) in an internal report has clearly stated that the party is set to lose the prestigious Shillong seat, where sitting M.P. Vincent H Pala is the candidate. The report claims that Congress would wrest the Tura seat from NPP candidate, the veteran Purno A Sangma.

Interestingly, most of the intelligence reports depict a different picture. These reports say that Pala would win in Shillong, though with a much smaller margin. In Tura, the fate of Congress candidate Daryl was unpredictable since the contest was a straight one that too against a veteran like Purno, according to these reports.

Purno has never lost the Tura seat since 1972. On the other hand, Congress has rarely lost the Shillong seat with the veteran P.R. Kyndiah holding it for a long time, followed by the incumbent Pala.

The internal report of Congress, however, clearly states that Pala would lose because of lack of support from the majority Church group since the pastor, PBM Basaiawmoit, was contesting “from their side.”

The Congress report says that the resounding victory of the party in the Garo Hills and the near total defeat of NCP turned NPP led by Purno in the last Assembly elections would be repeated in the Lok Sabha elections. However, many doubt it since during the Assembly polls, there was confusion between the clock and the book symbol, but that is not the case now.

Pala’s possible defeat by the own admission of his party has raised eyebrows as there are also ground realities pointing to his victory, together with reports from other sources. Pala had, however, faced difficulties getting the ticket.

The Congress in its report said Rev PBM Basaiawmoit will get more votes in the multi-cornered contest, with both BJP and UDP eating into Congress votes. But reports from other sources said Basaiawmoit did receive support from the Church, but only from a section of it, while the vote of the other section was divided.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Pala had received support from the Church group irrespective of any denomination. Division in Church votes could reduce his victory margin but would not be enough for his defeat, say observers. But, more than the stand from the Church groups, ministers, MLAs and MDCs as well as Congress-backed independents had worked against Pala in the polls. In fact, the former Union Minister had been facing opposition since the stage of ticket distribution and had to get it with the intervention of the party high command.

There was rebellion against Pala since he had allegedly campaigned against the party candidates by way of putting up his loyalists during the 2013 Assembly polls, which, however, was denied by Pala.

When contacted, Pala pleaded ignorance about the internal report of the party. “We have tried our best and common people supported me whole heartedly because of the huge work I have done for them as an M.P.,” he said.

“I have spent the maximum from my M.P. development fund for the State and taken up big projects like Shillong Bypass and Shillong-Guwahati Road,” Pala said.

“This has also been admitted by my party leaders both in the State and as well as in the AICC which helped me in getting votes of the people,” he said.

The inside story of opposition to Pala’s candidature is a sordid story of inner-party feud in Congress. His detractors held several secret meetings and conspired against the own candidate of the party even when the issue was engaging the attention of AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi.

These leaders used speakers in their cell phones during their meetings to enable them to hear what the absentees had to say.

Smelling a conspiracy, central leaders of the Congress intervened. Warning of stern action by AICC General Secretary Luizinho Faleiro and AICC Secretary Vijaya Laxmi Sadho finally brought the rebels to their heels. The lone Rajya Sabha member from the State, Wansuk Syiem, campaigned for both the party candidates in Shillong and Tura. So also some other top leaders who ignored the Garo-Khasi divide within the party.

Some others campaigned openly for Pala but secretly also advised their supporters to help the pastor. The more enterprising ones even provided monetary support to the rival candidates while campaigning for Pala.

“For Congress it is not important whether Pala wins or loses but in the crucial Lok Sabha polls where BJP-led NDA is posing a serious challenge each seat counts for us,” one AICC source told The Shillong Times.

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