Shillong: The NDA-affiliated National People's Party (NPP) on Thursday got a shot in the arm as eight former Meghalaya MLAs, including five from the Congress who had quit the Assembly, joined the party to contest the upcoming assembly polls.
The tribal-based party got a further boost as six Congress members from the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and the People's Democratic Front member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council joined the NPP.
Those from the Congress are former Deputy Chief Minister Rowell Lyngdoh and former Cabinet Ministers Prestone Tynsong, Coming One Ymbon, Sniawbhalang Dhar and Ngaitlang Dhar. The others are United Democratic Party (UDP) legislator Remington Pyngrope, and Independents Hopeful Bamon and Stephanson Mukhim.
Welcoming the eight former legislators into the NPP fold at a public rally -- "Mission 2018, NPP for New Meghalaya", NPP national president Conrad K. Sangma exuded confidence that his party would emerge as the single-largest party post assembly elections.
"We will be the single-largest party. We are working hard to get absolute majority, so we are confident that the people will give us the opportunity and we are positive about the developments taking place in the state," Sangma said.
The ninth Meghalaya Assembly, comprising 60 members, was constituted on March 1, 2013, and its term expires on March 6.
The joining of five former Congress legislators in the NPP is a major setback for the ruling Congress, especially former Health and Family Welfare Minister Alexander Hek's decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Besides, Chief Executive Member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council P.N. Syiem also deserted the Congress to join the newly-floated People's Democratic Front (PDF).
Syiem has been projected as a chief ministerial candidate.
Moreover, veteran Congress legislators state Congress president and four-time Chief Minister D.D. Lapang, incumbent Deputy Chief Minister Prof Roytre Christopher Laloo and Health and Family Welfare Minister Roshan Warjri have been declared "retired" from electoral politics.
Tynsong, who was the longest serving Cabinet Minister in the Mukul Sangma government until he was sacked last year, likened the Cabinet Ministers in the Sangma-led government as his "managers" and added that "they will agree to whatever he (CM) said".
Taking potshots at the Chief Minister for doing development work in his assembly constituency only, the former Congress legislator said: "The present leadership (Mukul Sangma) is the Chief Minister of Ampati. But NPP is not going to do that. We are for the interest of the people of Meghalaya."
"He (Chief Minister) is also trying to divide Meghalaya by sanctioning developmental projects only in some pockets in Garo Hills. Is it not that you (Chief Minister) are trying to divide us?" Tynsong said.
Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Y. Joykumar Singh also expressed confidence that the NPP would lead the government in Meghalaya after the assembly elections.
"It is for this reason that we have left the Congress and we see that there is future in the NPP under the leadership of Conrad K Sangma," he added.
However, former Chief Minister D.D. Lapang said the exodus of some Congress legislators to other political parties would not impact the ruling party.
"There will be no negative impact. I believe in the principle that no one is indispensable," the veteran Congress legislator said.