Other States

Rahul revamps Meghalaya unit

Vincent Pala

Vincent Pala  

New office-bearers announced after five MLAs quit party to join BJP ally

The Congress on Saturday appointed Shillong MP Vincent Pala as working president of the Meghalaya unit in an effort to contain the crisis sparked by the resignation of five party MLAs who joined the BJP ally, the National People’s Party (NPP), ahead of the Assembly elections early next year.

On Friday, eight MLAs of the Meghalaya Assembly, including those from the Congress, quit as lawmakers and joined the NPP, a party founded by the former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma. The Congress’s strength in the 60-member House has now come down to 24, but the government will survive with the help of nine Independent MLAs.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi effected a complete revamp of the Meghalaya unit in less than 24 hours and formed a 13-member election committee. Incumbent Congress chief and former Chief Minister D.D. Lapang was made an adviser and Celestine Lynghdoh was made State Congress chief.

But the appointment of Mr. Pala as working president is significant as the Lok Sabha member is known to be a critic of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and the move is seen as an attempt to achieve a balance of power within the Congress.

Mr. Sangma’s detractors point out that in a State where Chief Ministers usually change every two years, he completed a full five-year term. And that has made him powerful within the Congress. “The Chief Minister’s brother is a senior Cabinet Minister, his wife is an MLA. Even his son-in-law is a contender for the Lok Sabha ticket,” says one of the detractors who didn’t wish to be quoted.

Soon after the Congress MLAs joined the NPP, party chief Conrad Sangma said the move implied the failure of Mr. Mukul Sangma.

“There may be personal differences or even differences among tribes. Mr. Mukul Sangma is from the Garo tribe and that may not to the liking of some Khasi leaders. But he is the most progressive leader,” said a Congress functionary who supports the Chief Minister.

The term of the Assembly ends in March 2018 and the State is expected to go to the polls along with Tripura and Nagaland. All three are focus States for the BJP, which has ousted the Congress from its strongholds of Assam and Manipur.

Congress rebel-turned-BJP leader and Assam’s Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has been made in charge of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) to achieve what the BJP calls a Congress-free northeast. Aware of the BJP’s aggressive plan, the Congress on Saturday announced an election committee and a campaign committee for Nagaland.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 6:44:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rahul-revamps-meghalaya-unit/article22335006.ece

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