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Rift in Congress over choice of candidates

HDR, Kharshiing want party poll panel to meet again

SHILLONG: Division within the Congress has come to the fore regarding allotment of tickets for Lok Sabha polls in Shillong and Tura.
At least two affected candidates, HDR Lyngdoh and John Kharshiing, have written to party president Celestine Lyngdoh to reconvene the meeting of the election committee to ensure fair and transparent discussion for recommending candidates for the two Lok Sabha seats in Meghalaya.
While sitting Shillong MP Vincent Pala is the candidate for Shillong, Mukul Sangma, who did not apply for ticket, has been named for Tura.
The Meghalaya Pradesh Election Committee (MPEC) had on February 28 recommended the names of candidates to AICC for approval.
However, the letter of both Lyngdoh and Kharshiing said there was no strategy adopted to streamline the process of seeking the best candidates for both Shillong and Tura.

Mukul Sangma
Mukul Sangma. ST file photo.

The letter also said the MPEC till date had not sought the views of block and district Congress committees, frontal organisations, MLAs, MDCs in the respective parliamentary constituencies given the fact that the opponents will choose a consensus candidate.
According to the letter, all the members of the election committee were not present, and moreover, some ticket aspirants were also present in the meeting.
Another aberration is that individuals, who were not part of the MPEC, attended the meeting.
The letter also pointed out the poor performance of the Congress in the just concluded elections to both KHADC and JHADC and added that the sitting Shillong MP did not participate in the election campaigns for the recent crucial elections.
Mukul not forced: Pala
Pala on Monday rubbished talk of former chief minister Mukul being forced to contest the Lok Sabha election from Tura by state Congress leaders.
Pala’s denial assumes significance as reportedly there have been attempts from within the party to dislodge Mukul when he was the chief minister for two terms.
However, Pala, who is the Congress candidate for the Shillong seat, told reporters here that apart from the state leaders, even national leaders had asked Mukul to contest the election in the interest of the party.
“I appreciate Mukul Sangma for the fact that he is ready to sacrifice and work for the party,” Pala said. According to Pala, AICC president Rahul Gandhi had asked Mukul Sangma and former chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Nabam Tuki, to contest the elections since the party in New Delhi needs people of their stature after PA Sangma and then more recently DD Lapang left the Congress.
“There is a dearth of prominent leaders from the North East in Delhi,” he said and admitted that he had encouraged Mukul Sangma and Nabam Tuki to come to New Delhi so that they can work together for the benefit of their respective states.
Asked if the negative stand of the other parties here against Mukul had forced Congress leaders to push his name for the Tura Lok Sabha seat, Pala said the party had never thought along such lines and it is only the opinion of the regional party leaders.
“We as a party cannot do anything in Garo Hills without Mukul Sangma and we need him for the party’s survival there,” he said, adding that even former NPP leader HS Shylla has appreciated him.
When asked if it would be an interesting battle in Tura, he said both NPP nominee Agatha Sangma and Mukul are competent and it is for the people of Garo Hills to choose their representative.
It may be recalled that several Congress leaders, including Ampareen Lyngdoh and Vincent Pala, had earlier vouched for Mukul Sangma as the Tura candidate and the Shillong MP had even gone a step further by recommending his name to the party leaders in New Delhi.

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