The fire was always there, within. And, the flames are out now. The leadership crisis in Meghalaya raised its ugly head, once again. The last time the dissidence picked momentum was after the 2014 Lok Sabha election results. A young candidate of Congress Daryl William Momin, not surprisingly, lost to the veteran Purno A Sangma. This time, the regular Congress phenomenon cropped up following the Lok Sabha bye-election results that gave a historic mandate for late Purno’s son Conrad Sangma. Mukul’s wife Dikkanchi, choice of whom as a candidate was a talking point within the Congress, suffered a thrashing defeat losing all but only one of the 24 assembly segments under Tura LS seat. The dissidents do not want to lose this opportunity of seeing a change of guard, a phenomenon Meghalaya is infamous for.

Unlike in the past waves of dissidence in the Congress, this time the happenings have aroused curiosity across the political spectrum. Opposition parties are keeping a close watch in the political developments within the ruling Congress, in view of the upcoming 2018 assembly elections. Fortunes of the regional parties will depend a lot on the internal affairs of the Congress. Regional parties have already started seeing the possibility of ousting the Congress next time, especially the historic mandate for the NPP’s Conrad Sangma and the BJP making his largest ever footprint in the North-east. The saffron party, which devastated the ruling Congress in Assam to form the party’s first elected government in the region, is looking for allies in the other NE states to root out the country’s oldest party from the region.

More than Mukul Sangma’s dictatorial attitude, the main fear of Congress leaders in Meghalaya now is that they might not make it to the assembly if Mukul had to run the affairs of the state for two more years. Under his leadership, the party lost three electoral defeats – twice in Tura Lok Sabha polls and recently-held GHADC polls – with a saving grace of victory in Chokpot assembly bypoll, in the past two years. His achievement of bringing over two dozen MLAs from the 24 seats in Garo Hills to the assembly in 2013 no longer holds any water now. The dissident MLAs, mostly from Khasi-Jaintia Hills, are hoping that by having a new face they can erase the bad impression created by Mukul among the public in the next two years. It’s all about party politics, no gain, if not loss, for the pubic! This is the dance of democracy.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 27, 2016)