Conrad Sangma and Dikkanchi D. Shira
Tura, April 22: National People's Party (NPP) president Conrad Kongkal Sangma, a former Meghalaya minister and youngest son of late Purno Agitok Sangma, will contest the Tura Lok Sabha bypoll, slated for May16.
The decision was taken today at Purno's Walbakgre residence, where party functionaries from across Meghalaya were present.
Purno's wife Soradini Kongkal Sangma announced the candidature of Conrad, who had taken over the reins of the party as its national president after the demise of his father last month. He had represented Selsella constituency from 2008-2013 in the state Assembly. In the 2013 Assembly elections, Conrad had lost to Congress candidate Clement Marak, who is the present power minister of the state.
There was jubilation in the NPP camp with Conrad's name being cleared for the upcoming contest. He will file his nomination on April 27 and his official campaign will kick off from Adokgre village in North Garo Hills either on April 25 or April 28.
"It has been a tradition. My father kicked off his campaign from Adokgre village. So, I will keep the tradition alive," Conrad told The Telegraph.
He said his elder brother and legislator James, his sister Agatha, a former Union minister, and his mother Soradini would accompany him on his campaigns.
Conrad will take on Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma's wife Dikkanchi D. Shira, a legislator from Mahendraganj.
In Garo hills, the political drama has centred on Sangma and Purno's campaigns. Sangma has never left any stone unturned to win over the hearts of the electorate. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when Purno was in a straight fight with young Congress candidate Daryl William Momin, the chief minister was seen campaigning aggressively to ensure victory for Momin. It was a battle of words between the two. Though Purno won the election by more than 38,000 votes, political rookie Momin managed to secure 1.9 lakh votes.
Asked how prepared he was to take on Congress candidate Dikkanchi, Conrad said, "She is a respectable person, a legislator and wife of chief minister Mukul Sangma. It will not be an easy fight but the NPP is ready."
He said his campaign will focus on his father's legacy and dreams for Garo hills.
"My father had enjoyed support, love and affection of the people of Garo hills as he represented them for 10 consecutive times. I will definitely work to fulfill his dreams. However, we are not going to ignore other factors as it will be a fight between the NPP candidate (himself) and Mukul Sangma."
The bypoll holds immense significance for Conrad and the NPP as a party. In the 2013 Assembly elections, the NPP had managed to win only two seats in the House of 60 members. However, in the district council elections last year, the NPP secured 10 seats in the 29-member House and became the single largest party. The challenge for it lies ahead.
The election is definitely a test for the NPP as the Congress is going all out to take on Conrad at his father's citadel. The Congress is hoping that Purno's absence will prove to be a big boost for it. However, the NPP looks charged up to emerge a strong political force.