The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A sweep, an upset and a fracture

March 1: The Left Front has returned to power in Tripura while Meghalaya threw up a hung verdict, as had been widely expected. But the surprise came from Nagaland, as the ruling Congress stared at a possible ouster from power in an upsurge by the Nagaland People’s Front.

In Assam, the ruling Congress won the Ratabari Assembly byelection with its candidate, Kripanath Mallah, defeating his nearest BJP rival Sambhu Singh Mallah by 31,170 votes. Polling was necessitated following the death of Independent MLA Ratish Ranjan Choudhury.

In Nagaland, though the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 19 seats out of the declared 50, the NPF with 15 and its allies — the BJP six, the Janata Dal (United) two and Samata Party one — stood at striking distance of a majority in the 60-member House. Four Independents have also won.

The Nagaland Democratic Movement (NDM) has already announced that it will not support the Congress. It has three legislators.

The NSCN (I-M) hailed the verdict. The convener of its ceasefire monitoring cell, Phunthing Shimrang said: “People have realised that Jamir has been the stumbling block in the peace process”. Jamir himself, as expected, won by a large margin of 7,786 votes against nearest rival Chubala Ao of the NPF.

The Congress put up a brave front with PCC general secretary Imti Yanger Jamir saying that “we are still hopeful of forming the government as some results are yet to come in”. However, the celebrations have already started in the Opposition camp, with chief ministerial candidate Nephieu Rio of the NPF saying: “We have an alliance of like-minded parties and we will form the government.”

In Meghalaya, the outcome of the Assembly elections has thrown up a fractured mandate with the Congress emerging as the single largest party with 22 seats, followed by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with 14.

The Congress, however, lost its stronghold in the Garo Hills, winning only six of the 24 seats, the biggest surprise being the defeat of former chief minister and Congress president Salseng C. Marak. He lost his Resubelpara seat to Timothy D. Shira of the NCP by 994 votes. Shira polled 7,974 votes from this constituency to defeat Marak, who had before this won all the six elections.

Chief minister F.A. Khonglam, who contested on a ticket of the Hill State People’s Democratic Party, won the Sohra seat. From the initial indications available, the Congress is like to rope in the United Democratic Party (UDP), which won nine seats.

AICC leader Pranab Mukherjee said the Congress would stake its claim to form the next government with the support of the UDP and other like-minded parties. Congress leader D.D. Lapang, who won from Nongpoh constituency, is being seen as the next chief minister of a Congress-UDP coalition.

In Tripura, there were no upsets as the ruling Left returned to power for a record fifth time.


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