The Purno Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP) never looked like becoming a strong political option in Meghalaya, let alone the country. Political downslide of the Garo Hills strongman had started with his radical move to contest the Presidential election against UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee. This had led to his departure from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and eventual formation of NPP, which he termed a party of tribals of India. Since then, his election to the Lok Sabha in 2014 for yet another term was the only solace for his party that miserably failed in the 2013 assembly elections, winning only two of the total 60 seats. Defeat of his son Conrad Sangma, who had emerged as a strong political voice when he was the Opposition leader in the last assembly, was a big blow to the party as well as the father. And, then came its ‘de-recognition’ by the Election Commission for not submitting election expenditure accounts.
This is the first case in the country that recognition to a political party has been “suspended” by the commission under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968. The party allegedly failed to file the party’s expenditure statement for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ironically, the commission’s statement mentioned the ‘National’ People’s Party as a ‘recognised state party in Meghalaya’. The order is set to affect the prospects of the party candidate vying in the by-polls to Chokpot assembly constituency scheduled to take place on June 27. The candidate may have to give up the party symbol ‘book’ and opt for one of the ‘free symbols’.
Conrad Sangma has claimed that the party had submitted all the election expenditure statements except for one candidate outside the state, but the damage is already done. Good or bad, the party has lost the image of a viable political force in the state. Any way out? Yes, the party can still think of going closer to BJP once again, forgetting the wound of not giving Purno Sangma a berth in Team Modi despite their pre-poll alliance. While BJP is slowly gaining ground in the state, the party is yet to have a strong face, a vacancy the NPP can fill up with people in the Sangma family itself. However, the state BJP leadership may not like any such probable approach from the NPP due the fear of being outshone by the latter.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on June 19, 2016)