The 2023 Meghalaya Assembly elections will go down in history for the way NPP consolidated its hold on the state, while it was devastating for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and BJP. There were numerous races that were won by a handful of votes, while there were others that were won on a landslide, but there were enough surprises across the state to keep the casual observer interested.
Despite all the rhetoric of his rivals, chiefly by the BJP, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma held South Tura comfortably for the NPP, defeating the saffron party’s Bernard N. Marak by 5,016 votes. Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong (NPP) cruised to a win in Pynursla, beating Nehru Suting (Congress) by more than 8,000 votes. Cabinet minister Lahkmen Rymbui (UDP) retained his Amlarem seat by the skin of his teeth, though, holding off Stephanson Mukhim (NPP) by 57 votes (17,803 to 17,746),
The victory that will be talked of for the longest time will be that of Brightstarwell Marbaniang of the Voice of the People Party (VPP) in Mawlai. The new political face took down two strong challengers in the form of the incumbent, Process T. Sawkmie (UDP), and local MDC, Teiborlang Pathaw (NPP) to storm to victory in the biggest constituency in the State. Marbaniang won an incredible 24,262 votes – the most of any candidate in this election – which was nearly 60 per cent of all the votes cast in the constituency. Pathaw could only finish second on 8,614, while Sawkmie was further afield in third on 5,142.
While the Dr. Mukul Sangma-led TMC brigade faced a rout, his daughter Miani D. Shira held on to Ampati by 2,277 votes against the NPP’s Stevie M. Marak. Dr. Sangma’s wife, Dikkanchi D. Shira, however, lost her Mahendraganj seat to the NPP’s Sanjay A. Sangma by 1,718, while his brother, Zenith M. Sangma, went down in defeat by 788 votes to Subir Marak (NPP) in Rangsakona.
Zenith’s wife, Sadhiarani Sangma, also failed to unseat Saleng A. Sangma (Congress) in Gambegre, trailing by 2,871. Dr. Sangma ran in two seats – Songsak and Tikrikilla. While he retained the former (by a mere 507 votes) he lost in the latter by more than 5,300 votes.
Another big race was in remote Sutnga-Saipung where Shillong MP Vincent Pala (Congress) was handed an embarrassing 1,828-vote defeat by the NPP’s Santa Mary Shylla, a relative newcomer to politics. Pala, at least, finished as the runner-up; sitting MLA Shitlang Pale (UDP) only came third.
Another upset saw Heaving Stone Kharpran of the VPP winning in Mawryngkneng. Here, the sitting MLA, Pyniaid Sing Syiem (NPP), could only finish third. There was another defenestration in Mawshynrut, with Methodius Dkhar of the HSPDP handing defeat to incumbent Gigur Myrthong (NPP) by more than 5,000 votes.
It was a little less one-sided in Mawthadraishan but no less significant, as the HSPDP’s Shakliar Warjri knocked out sitting legislator Brolding Nongsiej of the UDP by 2,300-plus votes. In Nongstoin, the Congress came back through Gabriel Wahlang, who defeated sitting MLA Macmillan Byrsat (NPP) by 2,845 votes.
Nongkrem was put forward as a big race, given that incumbent Lambor Malngiang (UDP) would be up against the NPP’s Dasakhiatbha Lamare (who targeted this seat after leaving Mawhati), former Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong (of the UDP but running as an independent), former local MLA Ardent M. Basaiawmoit and several others. In the end it was Basaiawmoit, who nurtured the VPP from the ground up, who won big time, claiming more than 13,000 votes, with Malngiang second and Lamare third. Lanong finished dead last with only 135, fewer even than NOTA.
Another MLA to lose his seat was Hamletson Dohling of the NPP in Mylliem. Dohling had won in 2018 fresh from a pressure group on a PDF ticket. This time he quit in favour of the NPP but that did not help him as he finished in third place, though still less than 200 votes behind the eventual winner, Ronnie V. Lyngdoh of the Congress, who took back the constituency after five years out. Here, the VPP’s Aibandaplin F. Lyngdoh also did impressively well to take second position, only 13 votes behind Lyngdoh.
Kimfa Sydney Marbaniang, who won on a Congress ticket in 2018 but then quit to join the NPP, also suffered defeat in Rambrai-Jyrngam. The border seat saw a real surprise in the form of Remington Gabil Momin, who ran as an independent and won by 125 votes over the HSPDP’s K Phlastingwell Pangniang, with Marbaniang coming third.
All four MLAs who joined the BJP from other parties in the run-up to the election lost the polls, suggesting that their supporters were reluctant to follow them to the saffron party.
In Baghmara Samuel M. Sangma lost his seat to the independent Kartush R. Marak by 2,225 votes. It was much closer in Mawsynram, where three contestants garnered more than 10,000 votes each but it was Ollan Singh Suin (UDP) who came out on top, dropping Himalaya Shangpliang into second place. Benedic R. Marak lost Raksamgre by 2,800-plus votes to the NPP’s Limison D. Sangma, while Ferlin C A Sangma came third in Selsella.
In the end, the BJP maintained its hold of just two seats – Pynthorumkhrah (won by Alexander Laloo Hek by over 2,500 votes) and South Shillong (won by Sanbor Shullai with a massive 65.74 percent of the vote against a weak and inexperienced field that did not have any NPP or UDP rivals).
The NPP’s Garo Hills sweep included holds for Ponseng Sangma (Bajengdoba), Brening A. Sangma (Dalu), Rupert Momin (Kharkutta), Marthon J. Sangma (Mendipathar), Thomas A. Sangma (North Tura), Timothy D. Shira (Resubelpara), Rakkam A. Sangma (Rongara Siju), Jim M. Sangma (Rongjeng), Conrad K. Sangma (South Tura), Jimmy D. Sangma (Tikrikilla) and Marcuise N. Marak (Williamnagar). There were also new victories for Sengchim N. Sangma (Chokpot), Sanjay A. Sangma (Mahendraganj), Limison D. Sangma (Raksamgre), Subir Marak (Rangsakona) and Ian Botham K. Sangma (Salmanpara).
In Phulbari, Abu Taher Mondal (a former Congressman), defeated S G Esmatur Mominin (TMC). Mominin had won in 2018 on an NPP ticket but was denied a ticket and then joined the TMC. Selsella also saw the NPP run a new candidate against their former member Ferlin C A Sangma, with Arbinstone B Marak winning the seat by 8,741 votes, with Ferlin (who joined the BJP after deselection) only third, behind the TMC’s Agassi R. Marak.
The big disappointment for the NPP was the loss of cabinet minister and elder brother to the CM, James P K Sangma in Dadenggre by a mere 18 votes (15,702 to 15,684) to the TMC’s Rupa M. Marak. There was also a swing against the NPP in Rajabala and it led to defeat for Md Abdus Saleh by the tightest of margins (10 votes) to the TMC’s Dr Mizanur Rahman Kazi (12,628 to 12,618).
On the other hand, it was disaster for the TMC and joy for the NPP as the latter’s Damanbait Lamare (brother of Dasakhiatbha) came through in Umroi to unseat George B. Lyngdoh by over 1,600 votes in what was essentially a two-horse race. There was defeat for the NPP in nearby Umsning, however, as Celestine Lyngdoh (Congress) returned to the Assembly; Jason Sawkmie Mawlong, who moved to the NPP from the PDF, only came third, with the UDP’s Sunshine Makri taking second.
Another politician returning to the Assembly will be West Shillong’s Paul Lyngdoh (UDP), who fought off incumbent Mohendro Rapsang (NPP) and the BJP state president Ernest Mawrie to claim a welcome victory.
Other incumbents who won were M Ampareen Lyngdoh (NPP) in East Shillong. She was pushed by Manuel Badwar of the Congress but was victorious by 1,711 votes. Saleng Sangma (Congress) won from Gambegre by over 2,800 votes and Sosthenes Sohtun (NPP) in a crowded field in Jirang won by 1,623 votes. Wailadmiki Shylla (NPP) in Jowai added more than 3,000 votes to his 2018 total to defeat the TMC’s rising star Awhai Andrew Shullai.
Khliehriat incumbent Kyrmen Shylla (UDP) registered a second consecutive big win, taking more than 23,500 votes and nearly 55 per cent the vote for another dominant performance. In contrast, Mairang was a close-run thing for the Speaker of the Assembly, Metbah Lyngdoh (UDP). It came down to the wire but he pipped the Congress’s Batskhem Ryntathiang by 155 votes (19,066 to 18,911) for another five-year term.
Shella was retained by Balajied Kupar Synrem (UDP) but he edged Grace Mary Kharpuri (NPP) by only 434 votes. It was a misleading news report by a TV channel that saw Kharpuri’s supporters turn violent when they realised that Synrem had won on the last round of counting. It was an even closer contest in neighbouring Sohra, where Gavin Miguel Mylliem (PDF) barely held on against former MLA Titosstarwell Chyne (UDP) by 11,358 to 11,343 at the final count.
One of the Congress’s victories came from Mawhati, where the MDC, Charles Marngar, trounced the rest of the field to win by 5,200-plus votes. Like Mawhati (which was left without a sitting MLA as Dasakhiatbha Lamare decided to move to Nongkrem), Mawphlang was another seat without an incumbent, as Eugeneson Lyngdoh decided not to run again. His place in the UDP was taken by Matthew Beyondstar Kurbah, who won by a narrow 115-vote margin over the NPP’s Auspicious Lyngdoh Mawphlang, while the UDP’s Mayralborn Syiem retained Nongpoh by more than 6,600 votes.
Mawkynrew was an easy hold for Banteidor Lyngdoh of the PDF, who beat his nearest competitor, the veteran Martle Mukhim (HSPDP) by more than 4,100 votes. Fellow cabinet minister Renikton Lyngdoh Tongkhar also held Mawkyrwat, even though he switched to the UDP from the HSPDP before the polls. Nujorki Shylla (UDP) kept hold of Mowkaiaw, with nearly 4,000 votes over his nearest rival, while cabinet minister Sniawbhalang Dhar (NPP) won again from Nartiang, defeating the Congress’s Emlang Laloo by 2,100-plus votes. In Raliang, Coming One Ymbon (NPP) was declared the winner by a comfortable 5,337 margin to hold on to his seat. Pius Marwein (UDP) also held on to Ranikor, beating his predecessor Martin Danggo (BJP) by well over 5,000 votes.
Charles Pyngrope proved to be the lone success story for the TMC in Khasi-Jaintia Hills, as he stayed on in Nongthymmai, beating former MLA Jemino Mawthoh (UDP) by 1,199 votes. It was a hold for Adelbert Nongrum in North Shillong too, though the BJP’s Mariahom Kharkrang led the first two rounds of counting easily before Nongrum stormed back by 1,000-plus votes to win for the VPP, the party he joined after falling out with KHNAM.
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