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Last Updated : Jun 11, 2019 06:59 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

NPP becomes first Northeast party to get national status: Here's a look at its highs and lows

Observers credited the party's change in fortunes to Conrad Sangma, who took over the reins of NPP after PA Sangma's death in 2016

Atharva Pandit @AtharvaPandit3
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma

Last week, Meghalaya's ruling National People's Party (NPP) became the first party from the Northeast to be given national status by the Election Commission.

"It is a very nostalgic moment for all of us that the party founded by Late Purno Agitok Sangma has achieved its due recognition," party supremo and Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma tweeted, adding that it is not just NPP's achievement, but also the achievement of the people of Northeast "for their overwhelming support and trust bestowed on the party".

Founded by former Meghalaya CM PA Sangma in 2012, NPP has witnessed a number of highs and lows.

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The lows

For NPP, the first test came the year after it was formed. During the 2013 Meghalaya Assembly elections, the party had hoped to ride home on senior Sangma's popularity. A veteran of state and national politics and, according to observers, ideologically flexible, Sangma joined forces with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) soon after forming the NPP.

The results, however, were disappointing for the new party. NPP performed poorly, winning only two of the state's 60 Assembly seats, with Conrad himself losing from Selsella seat by a considerable margin. The overall vote share of the party was 8.81 percent. The only saving grace for the Sangma clan was that the two seats it won were from the Garo Hills region, considered to be a Sangma bastion.

Even in the 2018 Assembly polls in the state, the NPP did not perform as well as it would have hoped: it managed to win 19 seats while its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won two seats. Together, their total of 21 seats was matched by Congress.

A hung Parliament ensued, and Conrad staked claim to the government after he managed to cobble support from an Independent legislator, six legislators from the United Democratic Party (UDP), four from People's Democratic Front (PDF) and two from Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP).

The highs

Even though it formed a coalition government in Meghalaya, NPP's 19 seats were the highest won by any regional party in the state in over two decades. The party also improved its vote share to 20.6 percent. Observers credited the party's change in fortunes to Conrad, who had taken over the reins of NPP after PA Sangma's death in 2016.

NPP and Conrad, however, had expansion across the Northeast on their minds. While it went on to form the government in Meghalaya, it also became a part of the government in Nagaland. In fact, it has managed to attain the status of a 'state party' in four Northeast states, including Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

While the seats and the vote share across the Northeast helped the party be recognised as a national party, what helped NPP notch up its presence was its opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Proposed by the BJP, with which it is in alliance, Conrad played a key role in drumming up support against the Bill.

The 41-year-old also managed to convince other BJP allies in the region to oppose the Bill. In fact, according to reports, in Assam, Conrad was hailed as a hero for his efforts in uniting everyone in the region. After the Bill lapsed in Rajya Sabha, praise for NPP and Conrad cut across party and state lines.

Experts have noted that with the sudden but steady rise of the NPP, it is being seen as a genuine regional party with Conrad rising up to become a mass leader in future.

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First Published on Jun 11, 2019 06:59 pm
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