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Lapang’s decision may bring Cong closer to end

From CK Nayak

NEW DELHI: Has DD Lapang’s exit from the election race put the Congress in the state on the edge of the abyss? Is the national party, which has witnessed a series of enervating election battles, staring at another loss in the North East?
Many Congress leaders in Meghalaya that The Shillong Times spoke to said Lapang’s exit has dealt a body blow to the party, especially in the dominant Khasi-Jaintia Hills where the veteran politician emerged as an undisputed leader for a long time.
The state Congress is already reeling from desertions or expulsion and at least five prominent faces — Rowell Lyngdoh, Prestone Tynsong, Sniawbhalang Dhar, Ngaitlang Dhar and PN Syiem — will join other parties.
Lapang, a wily politician himself, told the media that his retirement from polls will not affect the Congress’s prospects in the 2018 elections. He also made it clear that he discussed about his retirement with Mukul Sangma, his erstwhile bête noir who replaced him as chief minister seven years ago.
But the former chief minister admitted that his important decision was not in consultation with AICC, which should be taken with a pinch of salt. He himself is heading for New Delhi to meet the AICC leaders, sources confirmed.
Besides Lapang, RC Laloo and Roshan Warjri have withdrawn from the poll fray.
“For us it is a signal and we take this as the writing on the wall,” a prominent Congress leader told The Shillong Times.
“The morale of the party rank and file was already low. Now with five-time chief minister and MPCC president himself deciding not to fight there is little hope for the faction-riddled party,” said a Congress MLA.
When it was pointed out that the Congress was successful in maintaining political stability for two terms, the leader said it was because there was no alternative. “Now the people of Meghalaya both in Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills have viable opposition groups led by UDP, NPP and BJP,” he added.
Moreover, the Congress is not in power at the Centre and AICC is in a pitiable condition, a minister said. There is a crisis in the party at the Centre as well as in the state and at this juncture, Lapang not contesting will send a wrong signal, he added.
Lapang’s absence will also leave the party without any checks and balances because Mukul is already known for his one-man show.
Now he will have total control not only over the
 government but also in the party, “which is not good for either”, the minister pointed out.
“If this trend continues Mukul will get a free hand in selection of candidates and distribution of tickets,” the leader said.
“Going by the recent electoral records both in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills this does not augur well for the Congress. The Grand Old Party has lost most of the polls”, he added.
When his attention was drawn to the absence of any pre-poll alliance even among the opposition parties the leader said the general consensus is against the Congress and people have made up their mind. Expulsion of leaders and voluntary retirement scheme of top leaders will only hasten that process, he added.
Besides the internal chaos, the Congress is also jolted by a spate of recent High Court judgments on dual posts, education scam and appointment of parliamentary secretaries.
Amid all the setbacks, Lapang’s abrupt decision not to contest reversing his own earlier stand has sounded the death knell for the party. It is testing time for Mukul, who has been accused of being dictatorial, as he leads the party to the battlefield in 2018.

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