Eight sitting MLAs, including two cabinet ministers and three others from the Congress party, have put in their resignations on Friday from the Meghalaya Assembly. The legislators submitted their resignation letters to Meghalaya Assembly Secretary Andrew Simon in the morning. The MLAs will now be joining PA Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) in a ceremony on January 4 at the Polo Ground in Shillong.
The MLAs, include PWD minister Sniawbhalang Dhar, Comingone Ymbon, PHE Minister and veteran politician Prestone Tynsong, Rowell Lyngdoh and Ngaitlang Dhar of Congress, Remington Pyngrope from the regional party, UDP and independents Stephanson Mukhim and Hopeful Bamon. The resignations have brought down the Congress numbers in the Meghalaya legislative assembly from an already thin 29 out of 60 MLAs, to 24.
While the Mukul Sangma government still has the support of many of the independent legislators (there are 17 independent MLAs who had backed the Congress party leading to government formation in the last assembly elections), insiders said that there have been rumblings of discontent among them as well.
NPP insiders said that discussions had been on with the Congress MLAs for some time. NPP president Conrad Sangma, who is spearheading the party’s election campaign said, “The resignations of these leaders has not come as a surprise to anyone. There has been a great deal of disgruntlement within the Congress party in Meghalaya for some time now. Even among those who have not left, there are many who are unhappy with the party leadership and the way the party is being run.’’
Sangma admitted that the NPP has been holding discussions with these MLAs as well and will continue to do so. “I can’t confirm that anyone else is joining – we will reveal one at a time. But things do look positive,’’ he said speaking with The Indian Express. Meanwhile, the tallest of the leaders who quit today, former cabinet minister Prestone Tynsong, said that he and the others had been unhappy with the party leadership for quite some time now.
Incidentally, Tynsong was dropped from the cabinet by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma earlier this year. “We have been very unhappy with the party leadership, that is Mukul Sangma’s leadership for some time now. That is the main reason why all of us have left. Even in Cabinet meetings, he never consulted anyone and he does everything alone without any consultation and this is not the way to function,’’ said Tynsong adding that the Chief Minister had been “ignoring’’ many senior leaders in the party.
“There are just three parties of national importance in Meghalaya state. The Congress, the BJP and the NPP. The NPP is the only viable alternative for many of us. There is a certain distrust of the BJP among the people in Meghalaya still. But that is bound to happen as they are new. They have only just entered Meghalaya politics a couple of years ago. Even after Meghalaya state was formed in 1972, it was the regional parties which held prominence.
Even a party like the Congress had to work and wait for 15 years before they could come to power. And that too with minimal numbers. The BJP will have to be present longer for them to gain trust – that is all,’’ said Tynsong. Tynsong added that the fact that the state was Christian majority, and issues like cow slaughter had come to the fore, will affect the BJP’s chances in the state, although marginally.
“The main issue with the BJP is that they are not perceived as a tribal party. People here feel that they will not be able to look after the Khasis, and Jaintia’s and Garo tribes here. Just as they felt about the Congress years ago.
Whereas PA Sangma was a local tribal politician,’’said Tynsong. With the Sangma’s having a stronghold in the Garo region of the state (and traditionally unpopular in the Khasi regions), Tynsong is likely to lead the NPP charge in the Khasi areas. Earlier in the day, Tynsong had said that the NPP was looking at capturing 18 seats in the Khasi Hills.
Tynsong said that they had taken up the matter of changing the leadership at least 4-5 times with the AICC leaders including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi but till date, they had not received any response from the Congress headquarters. He had also said that he, along with other leaders of the Congress, had raised the issue of the way Mukul Sangma operated several times with the AICC but had received no response.