The Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) election results threw up a hung house on Thursday.
Out of the 29 seats in the 30-member council in Meghalaya (one is nominated by the government) that went to polls on April 12, Congress emerged as the single largest party winning 12 seats. Right behind it was Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) with 11 seats. BJP, the NPP’s ally at the state government, was in direct contest at the ADC poll, managed to bag two seats. The remaining were won by three independents and one by the Garo National Council (GNC).
In the 2015 polls, the NPP had emerged as the single largest party with 10 seats, and subsequently formed the council partnering with the BJP and GNC. The Congress — which was in power at the state then — had secured only seven seats.
In 2021, the Congress has managed to improve its overall performance raising its tally to 12 seats. “We are thankful to people for trusting us,” said former chief minister Mukul Sangma of the Congress. He added that people could see the widespread “misgovernance, corruption and mismanagement of the council” and wanted a change.
Despite the NPP getting one more seat in comparison to 2015, the party faced two major upsets with incumbent Chief Executive Member (CEM) Dipul Marak losing the Rochonpara seat to Independent Arbinestone Marak. The Tura seat, which falls within CM Conrad Sangma’s turf, was also wrested by the BJP from the NPP.
Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya, NPP’s Preston Tynsong said that the party “accepts the verdict of the voters”. “Now we will sit down and discuss how to strengthen our party base further,” he said.
Following the hung house, both rivals NPP and Congress seem hopeful of forming the new council, with the help of allies.
While Congress’s James Sangma said they were looking forward to “engaging” with the GNC and the independent candidates about forming the new council, NPP’s Tynsong said that the party was also “working out how to form the executive council.” CM Conrad Sangma told a regional news channel that he “respects the mandate” and that his party was “hopeful” and would “discuss the matter with the BJP and other independent candidates.” While Dr M Chuba Ao, BJP state in-charge, Meghalaya said he could not comment until he “discussed the issue with the party workers, and the allies, he said that “Our allies are in a comfortable majority, so we will discuss how to go forward.”
The GHADC is an autonomous district council created under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, a special provision that allows for greater political autonomy and decentralised governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast. Meghalaya has three autonomous district councils — the other two being the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council.
A total of 182 candidates were in the fray across the five districts that fall under the jurisdiction of the GHADC: East Garo Hills district, West Garo Hills district, South Garo Hills district, North Garo Hills district and South West Garo Hills district.