SHILLONG, Sept 3 - The Congress is heading for the 2018 Assembly elections in Meghalaya as a divided house with serious questions being raised about Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma�s leadership.
Some of those against the Chief Minister�s leadership include Prestone Tynsong � an aspirant for the CM�s post. Tynsong was dropped from the Cabinet by Sangma last month and asked to �reinforce his position� within the party.
Yesterday, the Block Congress of Pynursla, which is Tynsong�s constituency, was dissolved and therefore he would have a tough job to reinforce his position amongst the new party functionaries possibly owing loyalty to Sangma.
Others are Sniawbhalang Dhar, dropped from the Cabinet for defying the party�s diktat and trying to promote his brother-in-law from a constituency in Jaintia Hills currently held by Deputy Chief Minister, RC Laloo. The Block unit of Dkhar�s constituency in Nartiang was also dissolved.
Some of the other senior Congress legislators against Sangma�s leadership include Deborah Marak, a Cabinet Minister holding the School Education portfolio amongst others.
Last year, Ronnie Lyngdoh, then chief whip of the party, was starting to show his discomfiture towards Sangma, but was promptly awarded the plump Cabinet berth of Urban Affairs to win him over.
Similarly, Ampareen Lyngdoh was also part of a rebel group who wanted to oust Sangma from his post last year. But she developed cold feet largely because the alternative candidate, former CM DD Lapang, was reportedly not to her preference.
She, moreover, has little room to maneuver as she faces a Court case for alleged nepotism in a job scam.
Another sitting Congress leader and former Deputy CM, Rowell Lyngdoh was dropped from the Cabinet by Sangma. Lyngdoh has been critical about Sangma. The Block unit at Mawkyrwat which is Lyngdoh�s constituency was also dissolved.
�As of today, Mukul Sangma is the leader�I don�t see any necessity to replace him,� Home Minister HDR Lyngdoh said. However, that does not make him a total Sangma loyalist, as Lyngdoh too was toying with the idea to replace Sangma from his chair last year.
Knowing the mood within the party, the Congress has begun its clean up job before the campaign, first by dismantling the Congress Block committees across the State. It has also started distributing forms to potential candidates to seek party ticket and many sitting MLAs are unlikely to get the ticket this time.
Here again it is to be seen whether Sangma has his way and senior Congress leaders like Tynsong, Dkhar, Lyngdoh are denied party tickets in preference to new faces.
It also depends on Lapang, the party president who was ousted from his CM�s chair by Sangma. Lapang still fancies his chances to be in the CM�s chair again. He could also be a possible spoilsport to Sangma�s aspiration to get a third term by getting his say on choosing candidates for the election.
The former CM enjoys a good rapport with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, while Sangma with Congress vice president, Rahul Gandhi.
Meanwhile, Sangma has his loyalists too and can surely count on his wife D Shira and brother Zenith Sangma who are among a few of the legislators standing strong with him.
Most of his loyalists come from Garo Hills, which include Forest and Environment Minister, Clement Marak and a host of first time winners from the region.
He can also count on Deputy CM, RC Laloo, who is on thin ice as far as retaining his seat is concerned and would need all the support to win. Health Minister Roshan Warjri has been a silent and strong Sangma loyalist.
Sangma has also tried to widen his support base by inducting Celestine Lyngdoh, who is from Ri-Bhoi and Comingone Ymbon from Jaintia Hills in the Cabinet last month. However, the induction may have come a bit too late.