In blow to Congress, eight Meghalaya legislators quit

Shillong, Dec 29 (IANS) In a setback to the Congress in Meghalaya ahead of assembly elections, eight MLAs including five from Congress, on Friday resigned from the assembly to contest the polls on the ticket of National People’s Party (NPP), which is part of NDA.

The Congress legislators, who include former Deputy Chief Minister Rowell Lyngdoh, former cabinet ministers Prestone Tynsong, Coming One Ymbon, Sniawbhalang Dhar and Ngaitlang Dhar submitted their resignation letters to Assembly Commissioner and Secretary, Andrew Simon.

Apart from the five Congress legislators, the other three are United Democratic Party legislator Remington Pyngrope, and Independents, Hopeful Bamon and Stephanson Mukhim.

The resignations come after Congress legislator P.N. Syiem, who is also the Chief Executive Member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, resigned as member of the assembly and joined the newly-floated People’s Democratic Front.

Moreover, veteran Congress legislators — state Congress president and four-times Chief Minister D.D. Lapang, incumbent Deputy Chief Prof. Roytre Christopher Laloo, besides Health and Family Welfare Minister Roshan Warjri — have been declared “retired” from electoral politics.

“We (Congress legislators) have put in our papers since the leadership (Chief Minister Mukul Sangma) in the state has failed to meet the aspirations of the people, besides the style of functioning of the Chief Minister,” Tynsong said.

Accusing Chief Minister Sangma of practising “one-upmanship”, Tynsong however said, “despite his negativity, there is also a positive side too. Mukul (Sangma) is a good leader. He is courageous, whatever he says we had to do it.”

NPP national President Conrad K. Sangma said all the eight legislators would formally join the NPP on January 4 at a public rally in Polo grounds here.

“Their decision to join NPP is a shot in the arm for us. It is also an indication that people of the state want a new party to lead the state,” Sangma, who is also the lone Lok Sabha member from the state, told IANS.

The (National People’s Party) NPP, an ally of the BJP-led NDA central government, has two members in the Meghalaya assembly. It was founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker (late) Purno Agitok Sangma.

Veteran Congress leader and Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had earlier said that in constituencies represented by rebel Congress MLAs, there is tremendous pressure to put up candidates.

“The good thing is that we are getting promising leaders who are showing keen interest to join the Congress and offer themselves for the people as potential candidates. This is setting a new benchmark,” the Chief Minister added.

The Congress has been reduced to 24 from 30 members in the truncated 51-member assembly following the resignations.

However, Mukul Sangma is expected to complete his five-year term as Chief Minister with the support of two Nationalist Congress Party legislators, one member from the North-East Democratic Socialist Party and seven independent legislators supporting the Congress-led government.

The opposition Meghalaya People’s Front is made up of seven United Democratic Party legislators, two from the National People’s Party. The Hill State People’s Democratic Party, which has four members and four independents, is not part of the opposition grouping.

The ninth Meghalaya assembly, comprising 60 members, was constituted on March 1, 2013, and its term expires on March 6 next year.