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Veteran at the hustings

Donwa Dethwelson Lapang, 78, is a five-time Meghalaya chief minister who could never complete a full five-year term in office ó a jinx hitherto associated with all chief ministers hailing from the Khasi hills region.

The veteran Congressman, who has been contesting Assembly elections since the inception of the state in 1972, will be seeking re-election for the eighth time from Nongpoh constituency under Ri Bhoi district on February 23.

In his long innings as a legislator, the old hand was vanquished only once ó in the 1993 polls ó when he was defeated by the then Hill State Peopleís Democratic Party (HSPDP) nominee Constantine Lyngdoh.

Though Lyngdoh is not in the fray this time round, the Ri Bhoi leader will have to surpass a woman candidate, Rona Khymdeit of the UDP, besides others to reach the Assembly for a record eighth time.

Lapang, also the PCC president, will indubitably attempt to make a com-eback to the chief ministerís office if he emerges victorious in this tri-cky election.

Not only that. Among the 60 Congress candidates, it is an open secret that there are some who owe their allegiance to Lapang and the veteran leader will have to bank on their support to return to the seat of power. However, that is easier said than done, considering the fact that his bÍte noire, Mukul M. Sangma, will stand as the biggest barrier between him and the coveted chief ministerís chair.

In April 2010, Lapang had to reluctantly renounce the chief ministerís office following an intense rebellion within his own party, paving the way for Sangma to become the CLP leader. In mid-2011, there was an attempt to bring him back in place of Sangma but the effort proved futile, as it was not as intense as it had been when he was ousted.

Lapangís political skills will require more sharpening in this election as he tours the different constituencies mostly under the Khasi-Jaintia hills to ensure that not only the Congress secures at least a simple majority, but most notably, to ascertain that his loyalists will be voted by their electorate.

In case he does make a comeback as the chief minister, will he be able to break the jinx? And most importantly, can he overcome the young Sangma to accomplish the chief ministerís chair?

After February 28, the race to the prized office will only become fierce. Who will win, and who will lose? Time alone will decide.