Congress on a fire fighting mission in NE ahead of polls

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Shillong/Imphal, Dec 11 (UNI) With assembly elections in three north eastern states barely months away, the Congress is busy dousing the flame of dissidence in Meghalaya and Manipur.

The AICC has rushed its secretary Major (retd) Ved Prakash to poll-bound Meghalaya to galvanise the party as ticket aspirants have threatened to contest the polls against official candidates, while Minister of State attached to the PMO Prithviraj Chauhan will arrive in Manipur's capital Imphal this evening to gauge the political climate in view of dissidence.

Major Prakash, who arrived in Shillong last evening, met Chief Minister D D Lapang and Pradesh Congress president O L Nongtdu and discussed with them the political situation.

He is also scheduled to meet unsuccessful ticket aspirants and appeal to them to exercise restraint and ensure the party's victory with a 'thumping majority' in the February assembly polls. Meghalaya goes to the polls with Nagaland and Tripura.

However, most ticket aspirants had decided to contest the elections against official nominees.

''We have no other option, but to go against the party as the electorate has asked us to contest,'' said Edmund S Lyngdoh, denied a party ticket.

Former Chief Minister J D Rymbai, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council Chief Executive Member H S Shylla, former Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council's Edmund S Lyngdoh, Mahendraganj MLA Nidhuram Hajong and Tura MLA Billy Kid Sangma are not in the Congress fray.

KHADC Chief H S Shylla had expressed surprise over denial of ticket to him and pointed out that his name was removed from the list of candidates ''at the last minute''.

Mr Shylla had also questioned the party leadership as to why Mr W K Kyndiah's name was written by hand on the list of poll nominees.

Maj. Prakash, however, maintained that there was no manipulation.

''We will ensure that everyone works for the party to ensure its victory in the 2008 Assembly elections,'' he said.

The Congress High Command had summoned top functionaries of the state unit including the chief minister, PCC president and Mr Shylla to discuss dissidence in the party ahead of the elections.

Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had decided to depute Mr Chauhan, the AICC secretary and North East Incharge of the party, to Manipur to assess the situation. About 15 Congress MLAs had camped in New Delhi for over a month demanding the ouster of Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh.

Mr Chauhan will arrive in Imphal this evening on a two-day visit, state Congress leaders said today.

The rebel legislsators returned to the state on December eight and were presently camping at Mr L Nandakumar's residence at Lamphel.

Imphal to chalk out their strategy.

The legislators claimed that about 18 of the 31 Congress MLAs were rebelling against the chief minister.

State Congress president Gaikhangam, who had earlier resigned from the Ibobi government, was also supporting the dissidents, though he had not spoken out against the chief minister.

Mr Gaikhangam said it was an internal problem and would be resolved soon.

The dissidents said they wanted Mr Ibobi Singh replaced for 'failing' to control law and order and 'favouring' only his constituency in the recruitment process.

Adding sting to their allegation Rajya Sabha member Rishang Keishing had expressed his disapproval of the Ibobi Singh government.

Congress MLAs supporting the chief minister today held meetings at the residences of three Cabinet Ministers N Loken, N Biren and K Ranjit.

Lok Sabha member T Meinya and some other Congress leaders were also expected to arrive along with Mr Chauhan from New Delhi.

Mr Chauhan might hold separate meetings with the Cabinet ministers as well as the rebel legislators and seek their opinions, the Congress leaders said.

UNI

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