Meghalaya: Political history
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Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma performed to The Beatles' song 'All My Loving'
Leader of the opposition Donkupar Roy, (UDP) president Paul Lyngdoh, and Parliamentary Affairs minister Prestone Tynsong accompanied him during the performance.
CM Mukul Sangma and Leader of the Opposition Dr Donkupar Roy perform to 'All My Loving' (Image taken from video)CM Mukul Sangma and Leader of the Opposition Dr
Call it the power of music or the power of The Beatles. Whatever it was, it recently brought Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma and his political opponents together on stage quite harmoniously, as they belted out The Beatles' classic track 'All My Loving'. During Sangma's daughter's wedding celebrations, the proud father took to the stage and began crooning The Beatles' love anthem. Soon, he was joined on stage by leader of the opposition Donkupar Roy, the United Democratic Party (UDP) president Paul Lyngdoh, and Parliamentary Affairs minister Prestone Tynsong.
The quartet enthralled the audience with their performance, with minister Tynsong's lively moves deserving a special mention.
This isn't the first time Sangma has performed in public. Part of a rock band in his college days, the chief minister thrilled people with his rendition of Queen's 'I Want to Break Free' at a NICT-Meghabytes event back in 2012. He again displayed his musical skills during the inauguration of Meghalaya House in Kolkata in 2015.
UDP leader Lyngdoh also doubles as a recording artist, with several hit songs under his belt. With Shillong being the rock capital of India, it's small wonder that its leaders know how to get their people to groove.
Ends in 2018
The last remaining members of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), the militant outfit suspected to be behind the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone Sangma last month, will surrender before police on Monday. The outfit’s chief, Sohan D Shira, was killed in a police operation last month.
The cadres gave themselves up to police at Akelgre village, 8 km from Williamnagar in East Garo Hills, on Sunday. The group had two AK-56 rifles, an INSAS rifle, SMG, .22 air rifle and .22 pistol among a huge cache of arms and ammunition, police said.
“They got in touch. The official surrender will be held at the police headquarters in the state capital on Monday,” Ringrang Momin, SP of East Garo Hills, said. The surrender will take place in the presence of home minister James Sangma.
The rebel group operated in three districts of the Garo Hills. It was declared a terror outfit by the home ministry in 2012.
1/3 of MLAs switch sides
For the Congress, the fight for Meghalaya is as much a fight to stave off political oblivion in the northeast as it is to retain power. BJP is at the helm in three of the region’s seven states: Assam, Manipur and Arunachal while Nagaland’s government is run by Naga People’s Front alongwith BJP. In Tripura, Congress has long lost its status as main opposition and Mizoram, held by the Congress, heads to the hustings later this year.
In Meghalaya, Congress is battling anti-incumbency and big-ticket defections and is up against a strong challenge from National People’s Party (NPP), founded by the late PA Sangma, and BJP. NPP, and other regional parties are part of the NDA at the Centre, as well as the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance but are contesting separately.
In power the past eight years, in itself an aberration in politically volatile Meghalaya, firebrand Congress CM Mukul Sangma feels his party is on track to retain power. The 53-year-old says, “We’ll have more than two (Meghalaya and Mizoram) in years to come. Here, we’ll make it past 30 seats.” The Meghalaya assembly has 60 seats.
But confidence apart, NPP inflicted a shock defeat on Mukul when his MLA wife, Dikkanchi D Shira, lost to PA Sangma’s son, Conrad, in 2016’s Tura Lok Sabha bypoll. Also, BJP intensified its activities in the state, and diluted its ‘Hindutva agenda’ to a large extent to suit local sentiment. PM Modi’s ‘Rally for Change’ in December was well-attended. The saffron party has steered clear of cultural collisions such as beef in local diet — BJP neta Bernard Marak quit the party last June protesting party seniors’ opposition to a beef-bitchi (local brew) party he wanted to host to celebrate three years of the Modi government.
To humour non-tribal voters, BJP has also side-stepped the issue of illegal migration.
In contrast, Mukul’s journey this time has been bumpy from the start. Weeks before the poll process started, eight Congress legislators jumped ship — five to NPP, one each to BJP and People’s Democratic Front while another MLA opted to fight as an Independent.
“We’ve had setbacks but changes in the leadership in Delhi (Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as president) and Meghalaya have energised the party here,” state Congress working president and MP Vincent Pala says.
Congress got a toehold in Meghalaya in 1976 when All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference, which spearheaded the movement for Meghalaya’s formation, merged with it. The party has had six CMs in the state, forming governments with the help of regional parties and Independents. In 2013, Congress came closest to majority, bagging 29 seats, two short of the winning number. It formed government with the help of 10 MLAs, mostly Independents. The regional parties together won 16 seats, and are all NDA allies.
This time, too, Independents and regional parties are gearing up to have a say in who takes charge of the state. Given how BJP managed to capture Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, Congress may find it difficult to form government if it falls short of majority. Keenly aware of this, Mukul says, “When you know the opposition’s working overtime to dethrone you, it insulates you from complacency.”
His party showcases their achievements—universal health insurance, success against militancy, tourism and development and stresses on its policy of inclusiveness.
Like in Manipur, BJP has been soliciting support saying that Meghalaya will gain if it votes for the party that is in power at the Centre. Its campaign has been strident focusing on the anti-incumbency factor. PM Modi and Amit Shah and KJ Alphons, its Christian face, have held several rallies. “Our morale is high. People are aware of PM Modi’s achievements,”says state BJP president Shibun Lyngdoh; the party banking on the PM’s ‘vikas’ agenda.
NPP looks comfortably placed, with its grassroots connect and links with the Centre, both working to its advantage. It talks of its founder PA Sangma’s legacy. Projecting itself as Congress’s key challenger, it expects to gain from its decision to not have a pre-poll tie-up with BJP, seen as a Hindutva party.
Governor’s speech in Hindi sparks protest
Meghalaya governor Ganga Prasad created an uproar in the state assembly when he addressed the first day of the budget session in Hindi, a first in the Christian-majority state.
While Congress legislator from East Shillong Ampareen Lyngdoh staged a walkout soon after the governor began his address, party MLA from Mawlai PT Sawkmie stood repeatedly to oppose the move, saying it had set a bad precedence. Earlier in the day, when Speaker Donkupar Roy said the governor would address the House, Sawkmie stood up and sought a clarification on whether Prasad would speak in Hindi and whether a translation would be provided.
Though a copy of the address in English was provided to members, they were still finding it difficult to understand what Prasad had said. “In 46 years of statehood, this is the first time the governor has addressed us in Hindi. It seems the big party is trying to impose its one nation, one culture and one language agenda. I am sure members can now speak in Khasi, Garo or Jaintia languages as per their wish as the governor has set a bad precedence,” said Sawkmie.
CM Conrad K Sangma said, “The governor was more comfortable speaking in Hindi, which is not a foreign language. I don’t see why that should be an issue when everything has been translated into English.”
NPP’s Conrad, backed by BJP, sworn in as CM
11 Cabinet Ministers Take Oath
National People’s Party (NPP) president Conrad Kongkal Sangma was sworn in as the chief minister of Meghalaya along with eleven other cabinet ministers of the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government. Governor Ganga Prasad administered the oath of office and secrecy to them at a grand swearing-in ceremony held at the forelawns of the Raj Bhawan here. The other constituents of the new government include BJP, United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and People’s Democratic Front (PDF).
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Manipur CM N Biren Singh, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, former Assam CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio, BJP’s key strategist and Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and former Mizoram CM Zoramthanga, among others. DD Lapang and Mukul Sangma, both former CMs of Congress, were also present.
Of the eleven ministers who took oath, four are from then Mukul Sangma-led Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA-II) government. They are Prestone Tynsong, Sniawbhalang Dhar, Comingone Ymbon (who left Congress and joined NPP) and Alexander L Hek. Like Ymbon, Hek, too, left Congress to join BJP before the assembly polls. Conrad’s elder brother James, who is a two-time legislator from Dadenggre, was also accommodated in the cabinet. Kyrmen Shylla (29), a firsttime elected member of UDP from Khliehriat constituency, made history by becoming the youngest minister of the state.
Speaking to journalists, Conrad said the priority of his government would be on good governance even as he assured to resolve the boundary dispute with Assam.
Rise of National People’s Party, Sangma siblings
The credit for the rise of National People’s Party (NPP) from an insignificant contender winning just two seats in 2013 to a major challenger to ruling Congress, goes to Conrad Sangma. NPP, with 19 seats, emerged as the second-largest party this time, giving a tough fight to the ruling party, which got 21 seats.
Despite being the single largest party, political analysts say, Congress may not be able to form the government and may have to make way for an NPP-led government. Sangma is clear about the direction his party will take. “We are talking to like-minded people and I will not take names at this stage. Our newly-elected MLAs will have to sit down and deliberate,” he said. NPP has ruled out the possibility of a tie-up with Congress. Sangma told TOI, “Any alliance is highly unlikely...we fought against the Congress in this election.”
But he was ambiguous about BJP. The son of late Purno Agitok Sangma, who introduced the Manipur-based NPP in the electoral politics of Meghalaya, was not clear about his plans of aligning with the saffron party that had won only a couple of seats. “All options are open as of now,” he said.
Conrad along with his brother James, was first elected to the Meghalaya assembly on an NCP ticket in the 2008 state election. He later held several key portfolios in the state cabinet, including that of finance, power, tourism and IT, and presented his first annual budget for Meghalaya within 10 days of debuting as a minister.
Having been the leader of the opposition from 2009 to 2013, he is currently the MP from Tura—which he won in a by-election in 2016 after his father’s death. Speculations are rife about Conrad’s sister Agatha becoming the first woman chief minister of matrilineal Meghalaya, provided NPP is able to cobble up a coalition.
NPP—though an ally of the NDA at the Centre-—locked horns with BJP in many constituencies with Agatha winning the South Tura seat by defeating a saffron party candidate. Both Sangma siblings— Agatha and sitting legislator James—have emerged victorious, which many believe bear testimony to PA Sangma’s legacy.
Conrad is confident NPP will form the next government as people are tired of Congress rule and desperate for change. Congress has been in power in Meghalaya since 2003.
To counter governor, MLAs use Khasi in House
Three days after Meghalaya governor Ganga Prasad kicked up a row by addressing the assembly in Hindi, opposition member Ampareen Lyngdoh spoke in Khasi while taking part in a debate inside the House on Monday — the first working day of the budget session.
Ampareen, an ex-minister in the last Congress regime, was allowed to speak in Khasi while taking part in the debate, which was on the governor’s address, after she provided English translations of her speech.
Speaker Donkupar Roy, who allowed Ampareen to speak in Khasi, told the House that facilities for simultaneous translation of the debate in languages other than English would be put in place by the next session. After Ampareen, the sole member from Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement, Edylbert Nongrum spoke in Khasi and called for amendments to the governor’s speech.