NEW DELHI: The North-East, once the stronghold of the Congress, has now become a BJP fortress as the Congress lost ground gradually. The States of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura are going to the polls in 2023 and the Congress has an opportunity to regain lost ground.
The Congress has started early and party president Mallikarjun Kharge has constituted Screening Committees for the Assembly elections in the three States. The committees will scrutinize the candidates and send a panel of names to the party leadership. The party's Central Election Committee will give the final nod to the candidates.
For Meghalaya, the committee will be headed by MP Gaurav Gogoi. For Nagaland, the committee will be led by Mohan Prakash, while Deepa Dasmunshi will be the chairperson of the Tripura committee. It has appointed senior party leader Mukul Wasnik to oversee the elections.
Congress in-charge Manish Chatrath told IANS: "The Congress will go it alone in the State elections but like-minded parties are welcome to join the fight against the BJP and its proxy".
In Meghalaya the National People's Party (NPP) had formed the Government with the help of the BJP and the Congress has witnessed some high-profile exits. In November 2021, former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma (2010-2018), along with 11 Congress MLAs, quit the party and joined the Trinamool Congress making the West Bengal-based party the main Opposition in Meghalaya. On December 19, two more Congress legislators -- Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh and Mohendro Rapsang -- resigned from the Assembly and joined the ruling NPP.
The Trinamool Congress is upbeat about forming the next Government. Sushmita Dev, a former Congress leader now in the TMC, said, "Trinamool Congress is the main Opposition and the only credible party in Meghalaya. It has already got unprecedented support in all the regions of the State... people are enthusiastic to bring the party to power. Our internal survey confirmed that Trinamool Congress will form the Government in the State".
But the Congress rubbishes the claim and the party is preparing for the polls with Meghalaya Congress president Vincent H Pala asserting that the party would put up around 20 per cent women candidates, and approximately 60 per cent fresh faces in the upcoming Assembly elections.
The Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee has finalized the first list of 40 candidates out of 60 seats, announcing that the remaining 20 candidates would be cleared soon. The Meghalaya Congress chief made an appeal to the people to give the party a chance by handing it an absolute majority for stability in the State and to take up issues of the people. In the 2018 Assembly election, the Congress had won 21 seats.
In Tripura, the Congress may form an alliance with the Left parties and party in-charge Ajoy Kumar is said to be weighing the options. Despite the BJP being in power in the State, the Congress is hopeful after BJP MLA and veteran tribal leader Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, who resigned from the Tripura Assembly on Wednesday, along with party leader Rajkumar Sarkar and the Trinamool Congress' Rakesh Das, joined the Congress at a big rally organized by the Opposition party to show its strength ahead of the polls. Hrangkhawl is the fifth BJP MLA and eighth MLA of the BJP-IPFT (Indigenous People's Front of Tripura) ruling alliance to quit since last year.
Of these eight legislators, three joined the Congress, four joined the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA), headed by former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, while one joined the Trinamool Congress.
In Nagaland, the State Government and different political parties, including the Congress, have been demanding an early solution to the decades-old political issue. The dominant Naga group NSCN-IM has remained firm that without accepting the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, the vexed issue could not be resolved. The Congress has been questioning the Naga deal and wants it to be made public. (IANS)