Importance of being Independent

Shillong, Jan. 25: Independent candidates are anticipated to upset the apple cart of established political parties and their nominees in the February 23 polls in Meghalaya.

From disgruntled Congressmen and women who were denied tickets, to those who have been projected by their own villagers, Independent candidates are increasing as the voting day nears.

In the last Assembly polls in 2008, only five Independent candidates were voted as legislators from the 60 constituencies.

From these five, at least three will now contest, as Congress nominees while the remaining two will seek re-election as Independent candidates.

This time round, the number of Independent legislators is expected to swell, which could lead to chaos during government formation.

Even some political leaders cutting across party lines are also admitting that Independent nominees, especially in the Garo hills region, are in a position not only to create waves and split votes, but also to get themselves elected to the Assembly.

Prominent names who are in the fray as Independent candidates include legislator Donkupar Massar from Pynursla and his wife Grace Mary Kharpuri from Shella, and former legislator Pynshai Manik Syiem from Mawphlang and his daughter Telinia Thangkhiew from Mylliem.

Legislators Samuel Sangma and Saleng Sangma, who were denied Congress tickets, from Baghmara and Gambegre constituencies respectively; associate Congress legislator Ismail R. Marak from Dadenggre, former Mahila Congress leader Pelcy Snaitang from Mawshynrut, and Assembly Speaker Charles Pyngrope's son David H. Nongrum from Mawryngkneng will contest as Independent candidates.

Meghalaya has always voted for a hung Assembly for as many elections as one could remember.

Till date, it is only the now disbanded All Party Hill Leaders' Conference (APHLC), which has been able to garner more than 30 seats in the state's elections.

Major parties like the Congress, United Democratic Party (UDP), and National People's Party (NPP) could well have to be dependent on the Independents for survival if any of them will form or lead the government.

Saleng resigns

Rural development minister Saleng Sangma today resigned from Mukul Sangma cabinet as well as from the Congress party after being refused a ticket to contest the poll.

Saleng handed over his papers to the Meghalaya Assembly joint secretary and to a Congress functionary at the Congress Bhawan besides sending a resignation letter to the chief minister.

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