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Dissidence still rules the roost in M’laya politics

Congress suffered setbacks in Lok Sabha, KHADC polls

SHILLONG: Demand for change of leadership in the Congress Legislature Party, setback for the party in Lok Sabha polls and change of guard in KHADC were some of the significant political developments in 2014.

This dissidence within the Congress camp again topped the news headlines this year. The dissident MLAs demanded a change of leadership in the State attributing their grievances to the style of functioning of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.

The dissidents’ demand for a change of leadership in the State received a boost when former Chief Minister SC Marak admitted to differences in the Congress camp over the style and functioning of the Chief Minister.

Marak who had joined the dissident camp wanted the intervention of the AICC to settle the issue of leadership claiming that most of the Congress legislators were not willing to work under Mukul.

Former chief ministers DD Lapang and Salseng C Marak along with state transport minister HDR Lyngdoh met Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath on August 27 last to “apprise” her of the prevailing political developments and the law and order situation in Meghalaya.

Sonia while expressing concern over the latest development had assured the delegation that the ‘right decision’ would be taken at an appropriate time.

However, on September 5, the outgoing AICC leader in charge Meghalaya Luizinho Faleiro, supported Chief Minister Mukul Sangma’s continuance in power during the Congress Legislature Party meeting.

Faleiro termed the demand for change of leadership as a figment of someone’s imagination.

Even after this announcement by Faleiro, the dissident group had maintained that the demand for change of leadership in the Congress Legislature Party was still alive.

After the removal of Faleiro as AICC in charge of Meghalaya, the dissident Congress legislators had anticipated the appointment of a new person in charge, who they believe would help to boost their campaign.

To the disappointment of the dissident camp, new AICC in charge Meghalaya V Narayanasamy chose to downplay the rift in the State Congress over the leadership issue, saying that difference were bound to occur in a family and added that the issues would be resolved.

Moreover, to resolve the prevailing crisis in the CLP, the AICC had constituted a Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Coordination Committee (MPCCC). AICC president Sonia Gandhi had reconstituted the MPCCC with a loyalists-only list and included none from amongst the dissidents.

Gandhi reconstituted the MPCCC by inducting three members from the Council of Ministers and an equal number from among party leaders to bring a semblance of unity in the warring State Congress.

The seven-member committee, headed by the newly-appointed AICC general secretary in charge of Meghalaya has the Chief Minister and MPCC president DD Lapang as members.

Though the pro- Mukul camp claimed that the dissident group led by Lapang has only 6 to 7 legislators, including SC Marak, there is a contrary view that the anti-Mukul camp has as many as 17 legislators and two more legislators were expected to join the camp shortly.

The anti-Mukul camp also claimed that Mukul was now left with only a few legislators who were still backing him.

This is not the first time that the Chief Minister is facing stiff opposition from his party MLAs over his style of functioning.

Even in the last MUA Government, the dissident MLAs had demanded the removal of the Chief Minister. However, the Chief Minister managed to survive since he got the back up of the party high command.

Meanwhile, the victory of PA Sangma from the Tura Lok Sabha seat was a setback for the Chief Minister.

Sangma won the Tura seat for the record ninth time by defeating his nearest rival Congress candidate Daryl William Ch Momin by a margin of around 40,000 votes.

Chief Minister, Mukul Sangma had gone all out to campaign for the Congress candidate who was handpicked by him.

Though Congress candidate Vincent Pala won the Shillong seat, it was not a boost for the party as there was criticism that Chief Minister Mukul Sangma did not campaign for Pala.

Pala was accompanied to election meetings usually by only the party legislators and sometimes by MPCC President DD Lapang.

During the selection process of the candidate for Shillong seat, the Chief Minister did not prefer the candidature of Pala.

However, after the High Command cleared the name of Pala, the Chief Minister had claimed that Congress was united to ensure the victory of party candidates both in Shillong and Tura.

With resentment persisting among some Congress legislators and party men, the High Command had rushed in AICC leader Luizinho Faleiro to Shillong to ensure unity.

Pala managed to retain his seat securing over two lakh votes leading over his closest rival independent candidate PBM Basaiawmoit by a margin of over 40,000 votes.

Meanwhile, the hope of the Congress to come to power on its own in both the KHADC and JHADC was partially dashed by a fractured verdict.

Congress emerged as the single largest party in both the KHADC and the JHADC winning 10 and 14 seats respectively but fell short of a majority.

The Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) sprang a surprise by winning seven seats in the KHADC, outnumbering the principal Opposition party in the State Assembly, the UDP, which won six seats.

In KHADC, after the district council polls, there was a change of guard with Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit becoming CEM after being elected as the leader of the All Regional Parties Alliance (ARPA), the ruling coalition comprising of HSPDP, KHNAM and UDP.

Basaiawmoit could last only for six months as the CEM since the UDP MDCs demanded a change of leadership within the HSPDP. The UDP MDCs had questioned Basaiawmoit’s autocratic style of functioning.

The KHADC had witness a huge political drama which lasted for over a month following the demand of the UDP to remove Basaiawmoit from his chair.

Supporters of Basaiawmoit had even gathered at the KHADC office to oppose this demand of the UDP. He (Basaiawmoit) in fact had even convened a public meeting to clarify on accusations leveled by the UDP MDCs against him.

During the public meeting, Basaiawmoit announced that he would continue as the CEM but that he was not going to accept the pre-conditions set by the UDP.

He finally decided to step down to end the month- long political crisis in the Council, only ten days after he had convened the public meeting.

Following the resignation of Basaiawmoit, KHNAM MDC Adelbert Nongrum was unanimously elected as the new KHADC Chief Executive Member (CEM).

Nongrum was elected as the new leader after the HSPDP reiterated its decision not to accept the leadership role in the Council.

During this whole episode, Nongshken MDC Grace Mary Kharpuri resigned from the HSPDP. The resignation of Kharpuri was a setback for the HSPDP.

Meanwhile, the new CEM had a tough time since the HSPDP had questioned his decision for induction of Kharpuri as the Executive Member in the Executive Committee.

The HSPDP wanted an induction of another MDC from the party in the EC.

To accommodate the demand of the HSPDP, KHNAM MDC James Ban Basaiawmoit decided to sacrifice by resigning as EM in charge of Labour.

Nongrum recommended the name of Mawshynrut HSPDP MDC, Morningstar Mawsor as a replacement for Basaiawmoit as the EM in his EC.

Finally, HSPDP Sohryngkham MDC Pyniaid Sing Syiem resigned from the post of Deputy Chairman of the KHADC citing that the UDP working president Paul Lyngdoh had gone to greet the Council CEM Adelbert Nongrum on the day he was elected on October 8.

Meanwhile Sohryngkham MDC stated that there were outside forces responsible for the downfall of the former CEM Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, while referring to a photograph which had appeared in a section of the media which showed the UDP working president presenting a bouquet to the newly elected CEM at his chamber on the day of his election.

Meanwhile, Congress candidate Wansuk Syiem was re-elected to the Upper House unopposed on February 1.

Things were, however, different in the GHADC which is due for elections in February. To pave way for election in the GHADC, the State Cabinet extended by one month the term of the Council which ends on February 17.

The Meghalaya government had earlier extended the tenure of the GHADC by six months on two occasions. The tenure of the council was first extended for six months with effect from February 18 this year and the extension period expired on August 17.

Again on August 1, the Meghalaya government extended the tenure of the GHADC by another six months as the “agreed text for settlement” with the ANVC and ANVC-B was yet to be inked. The peace agreement was finally signed on September 24 in New Delhi.

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