Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, whose NPP (National People's Party) may end up as the single largest party in the assembly polls held today, dropped a hint that his alliance with the BJP may soon be back on.
"If we get a fraction of the mandate, then we have to talk to parties to form government... If a party can give voice to the northeast at the national level, we are working towards it," Mr Sangma said after an aggregate of four exit polls indicated that NPP might win 20 of Meghalaya's 60 seats. It would leave the Chief Minister's party well short of the majority mark of 31 in the 60-member assembly.
The BJP, which won only two seats in the state in 2018, will marginally expand its tally, winning six seats. The Congress could win six seats and new entrant Trinamool Congress could open its account with 11 seats, exit polls indicated.
While exit polls often get it wrong, in case they prove correct, even an alliance with the BJP may not get Mr Sangma the numbers. In that case, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress may well end up as the kingmaker.
Back in 2017, the BJP had worked out a chain of alliances in the northeast with the formation of NEDA or the North East Democratic Alliance as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Act East" policy.
While NEDA wove together a series of social and ethnic groups, politically, it provided the BJP with allies in every state, bringing all seven states within its grasp. While the party got its second term in Assam two years ago, it has formed alliances with local powers to part of the government in the other states.
In Meghalaya, the BJP won only two seats in 2018, but managed to cobble together a government with the NPP. This time, the two parties contested separately after a rift over corruption allegations against Mr Sangma's party.
"When I took over NPP after father's death, I made it clear when we go to election, we should fight on our ideology. We have contested on ideology, not on pre-poll alliances," Mr Sangma said today.
"We have to realise that election is different from government formation. The northeast gets divided among themselves and the numbers don't give us enough voice at the national level," he added.