Cong sounds poll bugle, says wait for ‘surprises’

SHILLONG, June 3: Down but not out seems to be the mantra of the Meghalaya Congress.
From winning 21 seats in the 2018 Assembly elections to being without any MLA in the 60-member Assembly, the Congress has suffered a series of setbacks in the state but is confident it can spring a few surprises in 2023.
Virtually sounding the poll bugle in the state, All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in-charge of Meghalaya, Manish Chatrath on Friday said the party’s strength stems not just from the legislators but from the organisation and it will spring a few surprises in the upcoming state polls as a lot of people want to join the party.
“A party is not only of legislators; it comes from its organisation. Some have left us and some are suspended. With the elections approaching we have our strategy to spring some surprises,” he said, declining to elaborate on the ‘surprise’.
Chatrath said the party dealt with the five suspended MLAs the way it thought right and not with the intention of preventing them from contesting the 2023 polls. He also said the five have not been in touch with him.
“Maybe, they spoke to (state Congress chief Vincent) Pala,” he said.
Pala clarified why the party suspended the MLAs instead of expelling them. “There is a process and we are on it,” he said, trashing the allegations of the five that they were not given a chance to explain their position.
“We wrote to them seeking an explanation but they went to the press saying they don’t want to reply,” he said.
Chatrath defended Pala’s appointment as the MPCC president and resented the tendency to project him as a villain. “He is a three-time MP who beat the odds to win in 2019. And he is from Meghalaya, not someone sent by Delhi,” he said.
Stating that not demeaning anyone is in the DNA of the Congress, he said, “We don’t hold anything against those who have left. We are now organising ourselves. We have good people and have a solid organisation compared to any other party in the state.”
Chatrath said he was not aware of the AICC trying to bring back former CM Mukul Sangma, who had quit to join the Trinamool Congress in 2021.
Meanwhile, Pala said he is preparing to fight the 2023 elections from the Sutnga-Saipung Assembly seat, a decision he has not taken on his own. “I am very happy to be an MP but at the same time we have to look at the state also and everyone advised me to contest the elections,” he said.
Pala declined to say if he would be the CM candidate for Congress. “We will decide that after the elections. The priority now is to lead from the front and set an example,” he said.
Chatrath, too, said the party was not projecting anyone as the CM. But he referred to Pala as the face of Congress in Meghalaya.
He said Congress will be contesting all the 60 seats and will not go for any pre-poll alliance.

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