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 c.
Like in Arunachal and Uttarakhand, with the BJP waiting in the wings, the Congress dissidents have accused Sangma of “acting in a dictatorial fashion” and “taking decisions unilaterally”.
But this time, sources said, the party high command, which faced criticism for its perceived inaction during the turbulence in Arunachal and Uttarakhand, appears to be taking the situation seriously. Vice-president Rahul Gandhi has expressed his desire to meet the dissident MLAs and the AICC is hoping that a Cabinet reshuffle would appease them, said sources.
Party sources said the latest crisis was fuelled by the defeat of the Congress in the Turu Lok Sabha by-election, where the Chief Minister’s wife Dikkanchi D Shira lost to former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma’s son Conrad K Sangma by more than 1.92 lakh votes, the biggest margin in the history of the state.
Asked about the dissent within his party, Chief Minister Sangma told The Indian Express: “Those are internal matters. There is a system of dealing with such situations as a part of our internal mechanism.”
In the 60-member legislature, the Congress has 30 seats, and has the support of the Nationalist Congress Party with two MLAs, and 11 independent legislators.
The combined opposition, Meghalaya People’s Front, has 12 members consisting of eight United Democratic Party MLAs, two National People’s Party MLAs and two Independent members. Besides, the Hills State People’s Democratic Party has four MLAs and the NESDP one.
According to sources, the party is also hampered by the fact that two of its key leaders in charge of the region are “busy fighting their personal battles”.
AICC general secretary in charge of the Northeast, V Narayanasamy, is in Puducherry to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post. And AICC secretary in charge of Meghalaya, Vijaylaxmi Sadho, is said to be busy lobbying for a second Rajya Sabha term from Madhya Pradesh.
Narayanasamy, however, was in Delhi this week to meet Meghalaya Congress chief D D Lapang, who is said to be spearheading the campaign against Sangma along with former chief minister S C Marak. Sources said Narayanasamy was also present during a meeting between Rahul Gandhi, Lapang and Vincent Pala, the Shillong MP. It was at this meeting that Gandhi agreed to meet the dissidents to hear their grievances, said sources.
Congress leaders feel that in the current scenario, the party could face a rout in Garo Hills, from where the Chief Minister hails, and Khasi Hills. Lapang is a Khasi and his camp has claimed that he is the undisputed leader of the community.
Asked about a possible revolt, Narayanasamy told The Indian Express: “Everybody is meeting the Congress leadership, including the Chief Minister. They are getting the support of 30 MLAs and 12 MLAs are supporting us.”
On demands for a leadership change, he said, “There is nothing like that. Whatever it may be, they will meet the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi. They will decide. I am in Puducherry, not in Delhi.”