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Dr Mukul Sangma a survivor

By H H Mohrmen

Now it is almost a cinch that Dr Mukul Sangma will be able to complete his tenure as the Chief Minister of Meghalaya. And in six months time he will cross the finishing line and his name will be etched in the history of the state as one of the few Chief Ministers who could complete his five year term. Considering the complexity and unpredictability of politics in the state, being able to complete one’s term is in itself an achievement an accolade which many before him have not received. This not only goes to prove that Dr Sangma is a better leader than his predecessors but it is also true that it takes a leader with a special calibre to be able to remain in power as the chief minister of the state that too in a coalition government.

Dr Sangma’s leadership will be judged by his ability to overcome the many obstacles that came his way and to lead the state and its people through rough weather.  The first baptism by fire for Dr Sangma was the NGT ban on supply and export of coal from the state. There was a hue and cry everywhere and there were also protests with unfortunate loss of precious lives in  East Jaintia Hills District. Because of the ban, there were efforts to unseat Dr Sangma from being the head of the government, but to no avail. He continued as the Chief Minister of state albeit with the Congress losing the coal barons who were once upon a time part and parcel of the party.  This fact came to light during the last general election when a large chunk of the population in the coal mine areas (which use to be the Congress stronghold) voted for Shibun Lyngdoh the BJP candidate.

Then there is no denying the fact that the coal ban has an effect on the economy of the state. The public exchequer is poorer by several hundred crores a year in the form of royalty from the mineral, but Dr Sangma somehow or the other weathered through the storm. Adding salt to the wounds, the state which also depends for almost half of its revenue from collection of excise duty on Indian made foreign liquor, came the court order relating to wine shops and bars.  Hundreds of wine shops and bars located near the highway, schools and churches were closed and revenue collection dropped.  

The change of power at the national level also saw the change of Dr Sangma’s status from the blue-eyed boy of the then Congress led UPA government to a pariah in the corridors of power in Delhi. This has also affected the flow of funds to the state because Meghalaya is no longer a most favoured state of the powers that be in Delhi.

Then another issue which could have deposed Dr Sangma and bring the MUA government down was the protest on the Village Administration Bill. The imbroglio has seen the coming together of the people and all the traditional heads (particularly) those in the Khasi and Jaintia hills area which has culminated in a huge rally in Polo, but this rally failed to reach a logical conclusion. The outcome of the protest was that the act proposed by the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council received the assent of the governor, while the bill proposed by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council is still waiting to see the light of day. Now it is for the people to decide who is to be blamed in the entire situation-  the executive committee of the council or the state government.

When the dual post issue came to the fore, everyone expected Dr Sangma to lose the support of the MLAs who also held the office of MDC, because it was expected that they would rebel againts any move to bar them from holding both the offices. But when the Bill was introduced; all (including those in the opposition) except one, put in their papers and resigned their membership in the District Council. The only permanent outcome of the entire hungama was that it created a rift between the diehard upholders of dual posts P.N. Syiem. Syiem continues to portray himself as a victim of Sangma’s actions and rebelled against the party and the rest is history.

The MUDA building bylaws issue only gave Syiem more ammunition to attack Dr Sangma which also makes him gradually distance himself from the Congress. It has not only created a rift between the two leaders but using the MUDA building bylaws issue, Syiem, tried to portray the state government as anti rural areas and anti poor. Whereas the  MUDA building bylaws are simply mechanisms meant to control and monitor the construction of safe buildings considering the fact that Meghalaya is an earthquake prone area.

At the personal level, Sangma has a case which challenges his Scheduled Tribe status which has gone from one court to the other. Now the case is in the Apex Court of the country and no doubt it has been a spot of bother for him, but it looks like the impending case does not affect his performance as he continues to nonchalantly dispose of his duty as the CEO of the state.

Perhaps the only minister that does not have a secret desire to become a Chief Minister and challenge Dr Sangma is Dr R.C. Laloo. Otherwise each and every minister nurses a desire to become a CM and is only waiting for an opportunity to remove him from the position. There is continuous wrangling within the Congress in the state and fighting amongst the leaders of the Congress is an open secret. But a doyen like Sangma learns to live and deal with the challenges, the way leaders do and achieve the goal of completing his tenure as the Chief Minister of Meghalaya.

The way the incumbent MUA government deals with the railhead protest by putting its feet down is worth praising and it is also for the first time that the culprits who are suspected to be involved in damaging public property were booked and the law of the land is taking its own course. During the last five years people could freely celebrate the country’s Independence and Republic day without any hindrance and this itself is an achievement.

Dr Sangma steered through the tides and storms and has overcome many obstacles and ultimately becomes a survivor. Dr Sangma maybe a late-starter but his is intelligence, knowledge and his calibre as a leader is exceptional. The arguments here are not presented in a chronological order but never the less it only goes on to show that Dr sangma has carried his mantle with due diligence and dignity. He has done the state and its people proud and represented the government and the state well at the national and international forums.

To borrow from late Soso Tham’s poem about U Dieng Bilat in which he compares a good and true leader with the tree standing tall, Dr Sangma is similar to the tree which Sosoa Tham says  ‘Ia u phi lah ban bein; hynrei kumno phin rat?’ (We may condemn and blame our leader for all that is happening in the state and call him names, but how do we uproot him?

With the elections round the corner, it is indeed heartening to know that Meghalaya is blessed with a leader with the potential to lead the state in almost all the parties in the state. To name a few we have leaders like Paul Lyngdoh and Jemino Mawthoh in the UDP, James and Conrad in the NPP and of course Dr Sangma of the Congress. These are names of a few leaders who have the potential to take the state to new heights. 

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