SHILLONG, Nov 25: Despite the setback, the Congress on Thursday tried to put up a brave front, promising to fight back legally and politically with renewed vigour to regain the top position.
The party said it was not surprised by the development.
“I expected this to happen, today or tomorrow, as we were aware of the situation. To me honestly, it was not a surprise. However, I did not expect Charles (Pyngrope). I had high regards for him and trusted him always. I knew the rest of them would be going,” state Congress chief, Vincent H Pala said.
“I don’t take it as a setback but a challenge. In every challenge, you sometimes go down and then fight back stronger and come up with new plan and new system. That’s the reason why we have sped up the youth enrolment process,” he said.
Admitting that the development will damage the party in some areas of the Garo Hills region, Pala said, “We were all prepared and that is why, when we went to Garo Hills, we had taken along a few people and contacted them so that it wouldn’t be sudden”.
He said many senior Congress members in Garo Hills are still with the party. Since the Congress in Garo Hills belonged to one family, it took all of them. There will now be a scope for others to come back and many have, in fact, already returned, Pala said.
Asked if Mukul Sangma’s departure was due to reported differences with him, the state Congress chief said, “Mukul leaving the party is not because of me. It is only an excuse. I was in touch with many of my friends in other parties. I knew he had also contacted the BJP. The BJP had told me it was not very keen on taking him at that time”.
He claimed there was uneasiness among the turncoats after being away from power and to see the National People’s Party becoming stronger in Garo Hills.
Asked if he views Sangma’s desertion as relief or loss, Pala said, “I take it as a challenge. We will fight on the ground. Ultimately, it will not be the party that decides but the voters and party workers. The polls are a year and a half away and we still have time to project new candidates. It is a chance for us to work harder”.
He said the party is in touch with its lawyers to fight the desertion legally.
Congress working president, Ampareen Lyngdoh said, “This is a pattern reoccurring in the entire country. The exodus won’t make the Congress shiver and it will continue to build its forces. The deterrent that has constantly impacted the party has always been from inside”.
“Congress will fight back. This is an opportunity presented to the Congress and the people of Meghalaya to look for a new era of politicians,” she added.
Stating that poaching has become common, Lyngdoh said it is time for the Congress to relook at its candidates and give ample space to new faces and make people realise that the decadence of political goodwill is not something that they want.
“It is very sad that the public now cannot trust their leaders and if party presidents and CLP members are unaware of these kinds of theatrics, the public is in a worse dilemma,” she said.
Terming the switchover as political decadence, she requested the public to not give up on the Congress. “We will resurge and fight,” Lyngdoh said.
AICC secretary in-charge of Meghalaya, Manish Chatrath, who rushed to Shillong on Thursday, said, “We need to now strengthen our party organisation in the seats the 12 MLAs represented. We will start from now.”
Asked if something happened during the November 18 meeting among the AICC, Pala, Sangma and Pyngrope that might have triggered the exodus, Chatrath said, “I don’t think anything went wrong.”
“Our legal heads and the AICC are looking into the aspect of desertion. Once we are clear about it, we will make it known,” the Congress leader said, adding, “We are not happy or sad. Our main aim is to strengthen the party and ready it for the 2023 polls.”
The state Congress has decided to file a complaint with the Speaker on Friday seeking the disqualification of the 12 legislators. Congress sources said depending on the Speaker’s ruling, the party might approach the Supreme Court. The five remaining MLAs met on Thursday evening to discuss the future course of action.
“Splitting of the party cannot be done at the local level as the Congress is not a local party,” Congress sources argued.