AICC in dilemma over Mukul ouster demand

From CK Nayak
New Delhi: A beleaguered Congress which is facing serious internal problems almost everywhere seems to be in a catch 22 situation in Meghalaya with dissident activities coming back to haunt the party after almost half decade of stability an unusual phenomena in the hill state.
In a virtual replay of the revolts that ended Congress’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and nearly uprooted its regime in Uttarakhand, the party’s government in Meghalaya is facing a crisis with a section of ministers and MLAs pushing for the removal of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma after the humiliating defeat in his home turf Tura. The defeat is hitting the chief minister since the contestant was his legislator wife Dikkanchi D. Shira who was otherwise the right candidate at that point of time.
Like in Arunachal and Uttarakhand, with the BJP waiting in the wings, the Congress dissidents have accused Mukul of ‘acting in a dictatorial fashion’ and ‘taking decisions unilaterally’.
The situation has been aggravated with the BJP’s huge win in neighbouring Assam and its architect Himanta Biswa Sarma, arch rival of the chief minister, heading the BJP in the entire North East.
Once bitten twice shy, the party high command, which faced criticism for its perceived inaction during the turbulence in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, appears to be taking the Meghalaya situation seriously.
Both party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi have agreed to meet the dissident ministers and MLAs.
In the 60-member legislature, the Congress has 30 seats, and has the support of the Nationalist Congress Party with two MLAs, besides 11 independent legislators.
But there is a problem with the independents since the Congress candidates whom they had defeated are working at cross purposes including in the vital Tura by-poll and the preceding election to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council.
Soon after the Tura debacle, MPCC president D.D. Lapang and Lok Sabha member from Shillong, Vincent H. Pala met Sonia and Rahul and discussed about the problems of dissidents in Meghalaya.
The dissidents argue that with this rate of falling vote share, Congress will not come back to power in the next assembly polls which is less than two years away.
Both the party top brass agreed to meet the dissidents in New Delhi and accordingly Lapang and Pala went back to Shillong to meet the party legislators.
Meanwhile, swearing in of AICC  general secretary in charge Meghalaya, V. Narayanasamy, as Chief Minister of Puducherry and lobby of Secretary Vijayalaxmi Sadho for a Rajya Sabha seat from Madhya Pradesh has thrown a spanner in the whole imbroglio.
Following this the dissidents postponed their meet scheduled at Lapang’s residence and are currently waiting for the new general secretary to take charge. The dissidents also are not able to project an alternative young leader and Lapang is not ready to give up his claims.
BJP with its own Governor in the Raj Bhavan is waiting in the wings and can turn the table with the help of the NPP and regional parties plus the Congress dissidents, sources said.
The Shillong MP Vincent H. Pala who is playing a vacillating role has denied joining the BJP but is said to be close to the ruling NDA dispensation.
The just concluded visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Meghalaya and the huge crowd he drew everywhere has also unnerved the Congress top brass here. Everybody knows that after Assam and Manipur he will try to bring Meghalaya to his party’s kitty.
The only solace for the Congress is that BJP does not have a single MLA in Meghalaya with its lone legislature A.L. Hek defecting earlier. And unlike Assam and Manipur, Meghalaya does not have a predominant Hindu population and infiltration from across the neighbouring Bangladesh is not an important issue in the Christian dominated hill state.
But despite these solace, Congress will face problems if they change the leadership and even if they do not change. Mukul Sangma is already peeved at the high command for not allowing him a reshuffle in his three year old cabinet which he says has affected the efficiency of the government.
If they drop him there is no alternative leadership in the 24 member Garo Hills region barring Deborah C. Marak. But if they do not change Mukul Sangma the dissidents will wait in their wings to destabilize the government at the first available opportunity especially as the Assembly polls draws near.
In the given situation the 100 year old party has possibly only one choice – sitting with its fingers crossed!

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