March 7, 2018 2:47:37 am
Conrad Sangma, 40, took oath as the 12th Chief Minister of Meghalaya on Tuesday. His National People’s Party (NPP) is backed by the BJP and regional parties. Conrad, son of former Lok Sabha Speaker and Union minister late P A Sangma, is currently a Lok Sabha member from Tura, and is heading a 12-member Cabinet. He spoke with Manoj C G soon after the swearing-in ceremony:
You have taken over as the youngest chief minister of Meghalaya? What is going to be your priority?
There are many agendas. But our focus (will be) to ensure that there is good governance in the state. We have felt, and we have been talking very strongly about it: there had been no proper governance in the last 5-10 years. It was missing. The implementation of Central (government) schemes has suffered a lot. So our objective, and our task, is to ensure that takes place. There are many sectors which need to be looked into.
Your party, the NPP, fought the elections on its own. You did not ally with the BJP despite being part of NEDA and its partner in Manipur, ostensibly because you did not want to offend the Christians in Meghalaya. Now you have joined hands with the BJP. What is the message to the people?
There is no message as such. We are looking at two things. We fought (the election) on the basis of our own ideologies, and our beliefs. People have given the mandate, (and) an anti-incumbency mandate has come in. When there is an anti-incumbency mandate, it is our responsibility to take that together. Therefore, we have joined hands, like we did in Manipur, with the Central government so that we can work together and take the state forward.
It is a development-oriented, policy-oriented decision (to form the coalition government). It has nothing to do with ideologies and principles per se.
You have said that your ideology is inclusive. Isn’t that in contradiction with the ideology of the BJP?
Where will you not find contradictions? Today, we have got political parties, regional parties with us. They have got their different systems (of belief). We have five political parties in this coalition. I am sure there will be situations of contradiction. But does that mean we stop the development process.
We will find out areas where there are contradictions. We (will either) quarantine them, or we (will) figure out how to resolve them. In the meantime, we do what is in the best interest of the state. There cannot be a complete black-and-white (situation) here. We need to find ways that are practical and move forward.
The BJP has assumed the central role in formation of the government despite having only two MLAs. The BJP will play a central role in the state’s politics also. So who will control governance, you or the BJP?
This is an NPP-led government, and definitely overall decisions will be made from our side. But all partners are equal. If you ask me about BJP playing a central role, I would say the United Democratic Party played an even more central role. But you are asking me only about the BJP, and not about the UDP.
I am asking about the BJP because the Church and various Christian bodies were apprehensive about the BJP and not UDP. How do you assuage their apprehension?
At the end of the day, we also have our ideologies, and we are committed to the people that we will always stick to our ideologies. There is no compromise on it. When it comes to governance, it is an issue which we need to look at holistically.
Ardent Basaiawmoit, the president of the HSPDP, has already moved out of the alliance on the issue of BJP’s presence in the government. But one of its two MLAs took oath with you today.
Overall, each political party has a democratic right to express its opinion. Each member in the party has the right to express his/her opinion. We respect those opinions. We have nothing to say against them. The MLAs are very much with us, and they expressed their opinions. Both of them (HSPDP MLAs) are here.
What is your stand on issues such as beef ban?
We are very clear: there is not going to be any kind of interference on eating habits and lifestyle of the people, and we are always going to be maintain the secular fabric of the state. That is what our commitment is.
Will you institute a probe into allegations of corruption against some ministers in the previous Congress government?
We will look into the matter. I can only say that at the moment. I have just taken the oath.
Both Assam and Meghalaya have non-Congress governments now. The Assam cm was here for your oath ceremony. How do you plan to address the boundary dispute with Assam?
We will discuss… it is an important issue for us. There are many other issues to be looked into…. Oath-taking is just the beginning. The real challenge and the real work starts today. As a government… all the parties… we will work together to take the state forward. In that, we will face many challenges (but) we are ready for those challenges. We hope we will come out successful.
The Congress has said that your coalition is a bundle of contradictions?
A coalition will always have challenges. There is no doubt about it. If we say there are no challenges, no differences, then we are running away from the truth. So (we will) face those challenges — we realised that we have to work unitedly; that is where things will move. As coalition partners, it is important that we communicate, respect each other. And it will be my duty and responsibility that we carry everyone along. We have got people who are really focused and committed to the cause of the people and the state. When that commitment is there, you discuss those challenges, resolve (them), and move forward.