Tura, one of Meghalaya’s two Parliamentary constituencies, was held by former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma for nine terms. Even after he died in 2016, the seat continued to be held by his family: his son Conrad Sangma won the Tura bye-election by nearly 2 lakh votes.
PA Sangma was a longtime Congress member but was expelled in 1999. He launched the National People’s Party in 2013.
Though Conrad Sangma has since become Meghalaya’s chief minister, the family hopes to retain its bastion. Their National People’s Party fielded another family member from the stronghold: Conrad’s sister, 37-year-old Agatha Sangma.
Running against her is former chief minister Mukul Sangma of the Congress, who is making his third bid for Parliament – in his two previous attempts, he was defeated by PA Sangma. (Mukul Sangma is not related to Agatha Sangma.) The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Rikman G Momin, who finished seventh in an Assembly election last year.
Tura voted in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 11, with a voter turnout of 81.41%. It is a constituency reserved for candidates from the Scheduled Tribes.
Tight three-way contest
Agatha Sangma was first elected to Parliament from Tura in a bye-election in 2008 when she was 29 years old. She was elected again in the 2009 General Elections, and chosen by the Congress-led government as the youngest Union minister. However, in 2014, PA Sangma contested from the seat and won.
In the 2018 Assembly elections, Agatha Sangma won the South Tura seat but gave it up so that a bye-election could be held to give her brother a seat after he was made chief minister. She is now banking on her father’s legacy as she seeks a spot in the Lok Sabha once again.
Mukul Sangma, once an outsider in politics, has never lost an Assembly election since he entered the field and won the Ampati seat in 1993. After a brief career in public health, he had contested as an independent candidate, and later joined the Congress.
Mukul Sangma continued to win the seat and became chief minister in 2010 – a post he held until 2018, when Conrad Sangma took over. Two attempts at the Lok Sabha against PA Sangma failed in 2004 and 2006. The 54-year-old won Ampati in 2018 as well, but gave it up for his daughter Miani D Shira as he had won two seats.
The veteran knows that he stands a chance this time as it is not PA Sangma he is up against, and Agatha Sangma last won a parliamentary election 10 years ago.
North East alliance
The Bharatiya Janata Party is a regional ally of the National People’s Party but announced that it would field its own candidate from Tura, just a day after the state chief of the BJP pledged support to Agatha Sangma. The party has named its state vice president, Rikman G Momin, from the seat. The BJP had supported PA Sangma in 2014.
The three-way contest will be tight. Still, the BJP will benefit even if Agatha Sangma wins, since the National People’s Party is a member of the National Democratic Alliance.