Meghalaya voters returned a hung Assembly on Saturday, with the ruling Congress emerging as the single largest party with 21 seats in the 60-member House, 10 shorts of the 31 seats needed to retain power.
The National People's Party (NPP) was at the second position with 19 seats. The BJP, which contested 47 seats, could win only two.
Polling for 59 Assembly seats, out of a total of 60, was held on February 27. A Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate was killed in an IED blast, which resulted in countermanding of the polls in one seat.
The Congress had no pre-poll arrangement with any party. The BJP, which made a serious bid to dethrone the 10-year-old Mukul Sangma government, also had no seat-sharing arrangement with any party. However, the NPP is an ally of the saffron party at the Centre and in Manipur.
NPP chief Conrad Sangma said, "We are hopeful that we will be able to form the government. People are fed up with the corrupt Congress government and are looking for a change."
All eyes are now on the regional parties and independent candidates.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) has won six seats followed by the People's Democratic Front (PDF) with four and the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) with two. The Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement and the Nationalist Congress Party won one seat each. Meghalaya voters returned a hung Assembly on Saturday, with the ruling Congress emerging as the single largest party with 21 seats in the 60-member house, 10 shorts of the 31 seats needed to retain power.
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The UDF and the HSPDP have a pre-polls alliance.
Meanwhile, the Congress has rushed two senior leaders Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath to the state to explore the possibility of forming the government.
I express my gratitude to the people of Meghalaya for supporting @BJP4Meghalaya. The welfare of Meghalaya is of utmost importance for us. I appreciate the BJP Karyakartas for their continued efforts in the state to serve the people.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 3, 2018
The Congress' move comes in the wake of criticism in the past that the party was caught 'napping' in Goa and Manipur, where despite emerging as the single largest party it failed to form governments there.
After the Assembly elections last year threw hung verdicts in Manipur and Goa, the BJP formed governments there with the help of smaller parties and independent candidates.
Patel said there would no repetition of Manipur and Goa.
"It is clear that we will form the government. The will of the people of Meghalaya will be reflected in our Congress government. We are in touch with everybody. Everybody is in touch with us," Nath said, adding that "we will stake claim tonight".
Nath alleged the BJP is trying to use "money power to cause as much disturbance as possible".
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who won from the two seats he contested, said the results were not on expected lines and he would keep his cards close to his chest with regard to the Congress forming the government. For the first time, Sangma contested in two seats.
"We are in touch with like-minded regional parties and independents to form the government," state Congress working president Vincent H Pala said.
Outgoing Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who retained Ampati seat for the sixth consecutive term, said that it is a fractured mandate.
“Now it is a question of looking at people who would like to look at common agenda acceptable to the state's people and come together," he said.
Asked if the Congress had sent feelers to other parties and independents to form the new government, Sangma said, "All parties have gone on their own and the regional parties have not shown any pre-poll alliance either with the Bharatiya Janata Party or the NPP."
BJP general secretary in charge of Meghalaya affairs, Nalin Kohli, refused to divulge details, only saying that the people's verdict was against the Congress.
Prominent winners include Public Works Department Minister Martin Danggo, Information and Technology minister Ampareen Lyngdoh, Excise Minister Zenith Sangma, Social Welfare Minister, Clement Marak and Chief Minister Mukul Sangma's wife Dikanchi D. Shira of the Congress.
Leader of Opposition and UDP chief Donkupar Roy retained Shella seat for the seventh consecutive term, James Sangma retained Dadenggre seat for the third consecutive term, James' youngest sister and former Union Minister Agatha Sangma and former Meghalaya Rajya Sabha member Thomas Sangma also won elections as NPP nominees.
Prominent losers include Home Minister Horju Donkupar Roy Lyngdoh, Public Health Engineering Minister Celestine Lyngdoh, Urban Affairs Minister Ronnie V. Lyngdoh, HSPDP chief Artdent Miller Basaiawmoit and UDP Working President Paul Lyngdoh.
Meghalaya is one of the five states where the Congress has been ruling. The other states where the party is in power, are Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram and Puducherry.
With Agency Inputs