Shillong, Oct 15: Meghalaya's political stalwart P.A. Sangma and his National People's Party (NPP) on Thursday made a strong comeback in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC), defeating the ruling Congress party.
Sangma's alliance partner, the BJP, which fielded six candidates, opened its account in the council by winning one seat in a straight contest in ZikZak constituency. BJP candidate Bhupendra B. Hajong defeated Congress nominee Jogadish Ch Hajong by 935 votes.
Elections were held on Monday for the 29 seats of the 30-member GHADC amid a boycott by various pressure groups and a militant outfit to protest against the participation of non-indigenous tribals.
The government nominates one seat.
The NPP emerged as the single largest party with 10 seats, five short of a majority in the 30-member council. The Congress secured seven seats, while the Garo National Council won three of four seats where it fielded candidates.
The BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party won one seat each. Independent candidates secured seven seats.
Around 67.86 percent of the 590,456 electorate voted in all five districts of Garo Hills.
Interestingly, only four NPP members - Dipul Marak, Sukharam Sangma, Boston Marak and Denang T. Sangma - retained their seats. Council chairman Purno K. Sangma, chief executive member Alphonse Sangma and his 10 executive members lost.
Other prominent winners include Congress candidate and former independent legislator Ismail R. Marak, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Zenith Manda, Sangma's wife Sadhia Rani M. Sangma, who contested on Congress ticket, and NCP's Rightious N. Sangma.
"The people's mandate is very clear. They are fed up with the Congress," NPP leader Conrad K. Sangma told IANS.
Conrad also said that the NPP and the BJP along with like-minded parties and independents will stake claim to form the new executive council since the people's mandate was against the Congress.
"We (NPP and BJP) are now working jointly to stake claim for the formation of the new executive council," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
Conceding defeat, Congress working president Deborah Marak said one of the reasons for the debacle was anti-incumbency.
A total of 162 candidates, including six women and 79 independents, were in the fray.
The Congress fielded candidates in all constituencies followed by the National People's Party which contested 26 seats.
The United Democratic Party had 14 candidates while the BJP put up six candidates.