TURA, Oct 18 - If the mandate of the just-concluded polls to Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) is anything to go by, the Congress faces an acid test in the next Meghalaya Assembly elections. Though 2013 is considered a watershed for the Congress in Meghalaya, sterner tests await Dr Mukul Sangma when the Congress once again take on a rejuvenated NPP and up and coming adversaries � BJP and UDP along with a resurgent GNC.
�This was the semifinal and if you go by indications we are currently ahead. The final will come in 2018 and we definitely have an edge�, said a candid NPP supremo, Purno A Sangma in a press conference on Friday.
The NPP had won only two seats in 2013 and many had considered the party to have sunk, only to make a big come back in the GHADC polls and emerge the single largest party.
The resurgence of the NPP comes even after the Congress won the bypoll in Chokpot, something the NPP supremo alleged was due to influence of money. The emergence of Garo National Council in the current GHADC has come as a fresh breath for a party that was considered finished due to the death of it leader Clifford Marak.
The revival has been inspired by none other than his nephew Augustine Marak who will now look to work for a bigger role for the party.
The headaches for the Congress do not end at just the NPP but from a surging Bharatiya Janata Party as well. The party long considered something of an outcast has been building a base from where they will seek to launch an offensive for a bigger chunk in the Assembly polls.
The party did itself no harm by contesting in six seats in the GHADC, winning one. It came 2nd in two seats and third in one more. It could have done better if it had chosen a stronger candidate in the Tura constituency given that there will always be �pocket� votes for the Saffron party in non-tribal areas.
Pocket voters are those that generally associate themselves to a party without being members. The attachment is generally emotional.
�The big two political parties will always get pocket votes and this comes in very handy in a close contest. This has always been the phenomenon and one can understand why other parties wait for the Congress to announce its candidate list before the other parties do�, said a resident of Tura.
The first attempt of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in local elections did not come good but the party is slowly and surely making inroads into the region and may become a force soon, given the party work on building grassroot level support.
�We will definitely be looking at ensuring our party has more of a role to play in future elections and our efforts at making our party a representative for the whole State will continue. We will dig deeper and are definitely going to fight. We accept the verdict of the people and will continue to fight�, said West Garo Hills in-charge for UDP, Utpal Arengh.
The Congress itself faces many homegrown problems � internal strife, a sluggish economy, the problems related to the ban on coal. Further, the Congress is also faced with a government at the Centre that is not willing to to making it easy for them.
It is still early for the region with more than two years to go for the Congress. There is still time for the Congress to ensure that the 2013 results were not a flash in the pan. That, however, is easier said than done.