Tura gifts Conrad huge-win mantle

National People's Party (NPP) candidate Conrad Kongkal Sangma today won the Tura Lok Sabha byelection with a record margin of 1.92 lakh votes.

By Saidul Khan
  • Published 20.05.16
NPP candidate Conrad Sangma with his wife Mehtab Chandee after his victory in Tura on Thursday. Picture by Saidul Khan

Tura, May 19: National People's Party (NPP) candidate Conrad Kongkal Sangma today won the Tura Lok Sabha byelection with a record margin of 1.92 lakh votes.

The battle fought by the NPP on the legacy of Purno Agitok Sangma yielded results with the electorate in the 24 Assembly constituencies of Garo hills, which comprise the Tura parliamentary seat, giving his youngest son a margin never secured even by the Garo strongman.

Tura is aptly termed "Purno's citadel" as he had won nine consecutive elections and a byelection to the Lok Sabha in 2006 from there. His death on March 4 had necessitated the byelection. By winning the seat, 38-year-old Conrad has become his father's true successor.

The victory margin of 1,92,212 votes indicates that the Congress has lost its ground in Garo hills. During the campaign, an upbeat Congress had claimed that with 22 of the 24 MLAs in Garo hills in its kitty, it was way ahead of the NPP which has just two MLAs from there.

However, 23 of the 24 constituencies have given their mandate to Conrad, including Mahendraganj which is represented by Congress candidate Dikkanchi D. Shira. The Congress has won only in Ampati, a bastion of chief minister Mukul Sangma, with a slender margin of 2,432 votes. In Mahendraganj, Conrad secured 12,301 votes, while Dikkanchi secured 11,201 votes.

As counting began at 8 this morning, early trends from across the 24 constituencies projected the NPP's victory. By 10am, the picture was clear. When Conrad arrived at the counting centre here, over 8,000 people greeted him with "Conrad Sangma zindabad", "PA Sangma zindabad" and gave him the traditional kotip (headgear), milam (sword) and sepi (shield).

An emotional Conrad hugged his mother, Soradini, sister Agatha, a former Union minister, and wife Mehtab Chandee. His daughter Amara, 5, who was waiting at the counting centre, greeted her father saying: "We won, Dad". Amara, who lives in Delhi with Conrad's mother, had reached Tura on Friday. On Monday, she had accompanied her parents to Selsella, where Conrad cast his vote.

At 11am, Conrad, accompanied by his wife, daughter and mother was in the streets of Tura to thank the people. He also went to his father's grave to seek his blessings.

He dedicated his victory to his father and thanked the electorate and like-minded parties, including the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for supporting his candidature in the Tura Lok Sabha byelection. "I have won because people have voted for my father. It is a befitting tribute to my father, who was loved and respected by the people of Garo hills for his contribution," Conrad said and added that without his father, it was a highly emotional election for him.

He also thanked and congratulated Dikkanchi, who had posed a tough battle for the NPP. "During election, there was a lot of criticism amongst us but we have to keep all political differences aside and work together for the welfare and betterment of Garo hills," he said.

On the 2018 Assembly elections, Conrad said, "It will be a different ball game altogether but it is an indication that the state government has failed in many areas".

He said he would raise his pitch for the problems confronting the region, including deficiency in implementation of central schemes, education and law and order.

When it was pointed out that there would be a vacancy in the Union cabinet now as the BJP had won the Assembly elections in Assam and sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal was set to become the chief minister, Conrad said, "It is the Prime Minister's prerogative. My objective and goal is to work for the people in whatever capacity I can."

Conrad is a former state finance and power minister. He was the Opposition leader from 2009 to 2013.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Conrad on his massive win. He tweeted: "Congratulations to Mr Conrad Sangma for winning Tura Lok Sabha bypoll. I wish him the very best as he begins his parliamentary journey."

National BJP spokesperson and in-charge of Meghalaya, Nalin Kohli, said: "We knew from day one that Conrad would win. We were waiting for the margin. The people of Garo hills have rightly elected him." He said the results reflected that the Congress was crumbling.