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Congress heartburn in both LS seats
- 3 ticket contenders in Shillong, 8 in Tura; Mukul may contest from Garo hills

Shillong, Jan. 22: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma today did not rule out the possibility of contesting the coming Lok Sabha elections from Tura parliamentary seat while sitting Shillong MP Vincent Pala declared that he would not contest the polls if the Congress chose another candidate in his place.

Sangma and Pala made the remarks on the sidelines of a meeting with AICC secretary Vijay Laxmi Sadho who is camping here to get feedback from Congress legislators and party workers on the “winnability” factor of those who had aspired for party tickets from Shillong and Tura parliamentary seats.

“Nothing can be ruled out until the list of candidates is approved. It all depends on the party high command. If the AICC president asks me to contest the polls, then I will have to agree like I had been doing in the past even when the situation was difficult,” Sangma told reporters.

Although Sangma did not officially apply for a party ticket, there have been indications that the chief minister himself might contest from the Tura parliamentary constituency riding on last year’s success in the Assembly polls where the Congress won in 13 out of 24 seats in the Garo hills.

In 2004 and 2006, the chief minister contested against former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma. He, however, lost in both elections.

Sadho, after ascertaining the views from Congress legislators and party workers, will prepare a report that would be sent to the screening committee headed by Union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office, V. Narayanasamy.

The visit by the AICC secretary signifies commencement of the process of selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

After having tasted defeat in the recent Assembly polls in other states, the Congress has been wary of the BJP and the mercurial rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Against this backdrop, the party is cautiously trying to select its candidates who have a better chance of winning. This could mean that even serving party MPs may lose tickets in case there is sufficient substantiation that they would no longer make it to the Lok Sabha.

Congress ministers and party leaders met Sadho separately to present their views on the contenders.

Recently, Congress president Sonia Gandhi appointed screening committees for various states to decide the candidates for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

For the states of the Northeast, excluding Assam, Sonia has appointed Narayanasamy as head of the screening committee.

The Congress has at least three contenders for the Shillong parliamentary seat. Apart from Pala, former legislator Charles Pyngrope and Congress leader John F. Kharshiing are the other contenders for Congress ticket.

On whether he would contest the polls in case he fails to garner a party ticket, Pala said: “I will not contest, but will support the party’s nominee.” For the Tura parliamentary constituency, at least eight names have surfaced. They include Mukul Sangma’s brother Zenith who is also the state sports and youth affairs minister, Salmanpara legislator Winnerson D. Sangma and Meghalaya Pradesh Youth Congress general secretary Richard Marak.

The others are Daryl William Cheran Momin, grandson of Meghalaya’s first chief minister Capt. Williamson A. Sangma, former bureaucrat Arlene M. Sangma, Meghalaya PCC general secretary Polycarp K. Marak, former legislator Adolf Lu Hitler R. Marak and former Meghalaya industries director D.K. Areng.