| Badruddin Ajmal |
Shillong, Aug. 26: The political landscape in Meghalaya’s Garo hills region could be redefined during the forthcoming Assembly polls as the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, could participate in the elections.
Some constituencies in the plain belt of Garo hills like Rajabala, Phulbari and Mahendraganj have a sizeable minority population, and if Ajmal puts up his candidates, the outcome could well create an upset for parties like the Congress.
Other constituencies where the minorities are making their presence felt include Raksamgre, Tikrikilla, Ampatigiri, Salmanpara and Rangsakona.
However, in Garo hills, only Rajabala and Phulbari have been declared general seats while the rest 22 seats have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes candidates.
Congress leader Sayeedullah Nongrum is representing Rajabala constituency while Independent legislator Abu Taher Mondal represents Phulbari. Mahendraganj is represented by Congress leader Abdus Saleh.
In the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region, the general seats include Pynthorumkhrah, West Shillong and South Shillong. The remaining 33 seats are open to indigenous candidates only.
AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam told The Telegraph in Guwahati that there has been a demand to set up the party’s unit from several states, including Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Manipur.
“The issue will be discussed in our general council meeting which was initially scheduled to be held in June, but was put off because of floods and the riots in Assam. The party already has units in West Bengal and Maharashtra,” Islam said.
BJP’s Northeast organisation secretary P. Chandra Sekhar told The Telegraph that the AIUDF would definitely look to make inroads into Meghalaya, as there are quite a number of seats in Garo hills where minority voters play a decisive role in elections.
For several years now, the Congress, with exceptions of some Independents, has dominated the plain belt of Garo hills.
However, the role of the newly established National People’s Party (NPP), whose present members were earlier part of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), in the elections cannot be discounted.
The presence of former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma in the NPP set-up only makes the upcoming polls scheduled for February-March next year more enchanting.
It may be mentioned that the AIUDF was formed in 2005 to espouse the cause of the minorities, winning 10 seats in the 2006 Assam Assembly elections.
In 2011, it not only won 18 seats but also replaced the AGP as the main Opposition party in Assam.
At present, only Ajmal is a Lok Sabha member from the AIUDF representing Dhubri constituency.
Although the AIUDF is yet to make a proclamation on whether it would partake in the ninth Meghalaya Assembly elections, it would not be a revelation if Ajmal declares the candidates’ names as Dhubri is not too far away from those constituencies in Garo hills where minorities can make a difference between the ultimate winner and the nearest loser.