Eight MLAs in Meghalaya, including five from the ruling Congress, resigned from the Assembly on Friday in order to join the National People’s Party (NPP), an NDA constituent. The MLAs include Deputy Chief Minister Rowell Lyngdoh, PWD Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar, PHE Minister Comingone Ymbon, veteran politician Prestone Tynsong and Ngaitlang Dhar of the Congress; Remington Pyngrope from UDP, a regional party, and independents Stephanson Mukhim and Hopeful Bamon.
Rowell, who has been MLA from Mawkyrwat constituency in South West Khasi Hills district since 2008, later said in Shillong that all eight legislators would join the NPP at a rally next week.
P A Sangma’s NPP is part of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), floated by the BJP as an alliance of regional parties. The eight MLAs are expected to join the NPP at a ceremony at the Polo Ground in Shillong on January 4.
The resignations have brought down the Congress numbers in the 60-member Assembly from 29 to 24. Another Congress MLA, Pynshngian N Syiem, had resigned from the party on December 15. There is, however, no immediate threat to the Congress government led by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma as it has the support of nine Independents, which takes its tally to 33.
Tynsong, who was dropped from the Cabinet by Mukul Sangma earlier this year, told the media, “We were very unhappy with the party leadership. Even at Cabinet meetings, Mukul Sangma never consulted anyone.” He said they had taken up the matter of changing leadership several times with AICC leaders, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but did not receive any response.
“There are just three parties of national importance in Meghalaya — the Congress, BJP and NPP. The NPP is the only viable alternative for many of us. There is a certain distrust of the BJP. But that is bound to happen as they are new in the state,” he said.
Tynsong added that in the Christian-majority state, issues like cow slaughter had come to the fore and this could affect the BJP’s chances in the state, though marginally. “The BJP is not perceived as a tribal party. People here feel they will not be able to look after the Khasis, Jaintias and Garo tribes. Just as they felt about the Congress years ago. Whereas PA Sangma was a local tribal politician.”
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 in Meghalaya. 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.’’ He admitted that the NPP has been holding discussions with these MLAs. “I can’t confirm that anyone else is joining, we will reveal one at a time. But things look positive,” he told The Indian Express.
While the Mukul Sangma government still has the support of many independent legislators, sources said there have been rumblings of discontent among them as well.