The lion’s share of Cabinet berths in the government led by National People’s Party (NPP) chief Conrad Sangma in Meghalaya is likely to go to the allies. A day before the swearing-in of the Ministry, the smaller parties are believed to have struck a tough bargain.
Mr. Sangma, the Chief Minister-designate, was busy on Monday with meetings and negotiations, and visited the house of United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Donkupar Roy. The UDP with six MLAs supporting the NPP made it clear that it will not settle for anything fewer than three Cabinet berths.
No change in stance
Rumours were rife in political circles in the hill State that the UDP was considering a change of allegiance, but the party leaders quickly dispelled such reports saying they were very much part of the NPP alliance.
The People’s Democratic Front (PDF), a party with four MLAs, demanded two berths and one each will go to the Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the BJP, which has two MLAs each. The Independents supporting the NPP are demanding at least one Cabinet berth.
The NPP-led coalition has claimed the support of 34 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly.
The BJP, which brought the regional parties together to form a government, said on Monday that the party was only playing the “role of a facilitator”, and the allotment of Cabinet berths was the prerogative of the Chief Minister.
Sources said the Chief Minister and 11 Ministers would be sworn in at the Raj Bhavan on Tuesday. If the regional parties stick to their stand, the NPP, which is the largest party in the alliance with 19 MLAs, will get only one-third of the ministerial positions, including that of the Chief Minister.
Amid the negotiations and bargaining, Mr. Sangma said the focus of his government would be on governance and transparency. “We will provide a good, clean and transparent government which has been lacking in Meghalaya for the past few years,” he said.
Mr. Sangma said the new government would focus on improving infrastructure and formulating new social sector schemes.
The NPP chief told presspersons that the announcement of his name as Chief Minister was sudden and he hardly expected that. “I came here just with a bag and two shirts and was planning to go to Delhi to attend the Parliament session,” he said. Mr. Sangma represents the Tura Lok Sabha seat in Garo Hills.
The NPP had projected Prestone Tynsong as its chief ministerial candidate. But the UDP put its foot down, saying that they would support the NPP only if Mr. Sangma is made the Chief Minister. Mr Tynsong, who won the Pynursla Assembly seat from the East Khasi Hills, will have to be content with a Cabinet berth.