“How can a lion and a deer drink from the same water source at the same time?” wondered Meghalaya BJP chief Ernest Mawrie. “How can the MLAs decide on such a sensitive matter without consulting the MPCC or the party high command in Delhi?” questioned state Congress general secretary Deborah Marak.
A day after all five Congress MLAs in the state joined the BJP-backed ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), which brought the two arch foes together in a ruling coalition anywhere in the country, their state leaders are a befuddled and angry lot.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s TMC alone now occupies the entire opposition space in the state assembly.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, however, said the decision by all the five Congress MLAs to join the ruling MDA will not affect the ties between his National People’s Party (NPP), which leads the coalition and the government, and its allies including the BJP.
“How can a lion and a deer drink from the same water source at the same time? Never heard, right? The BJP and the Congress are complete opposites in ideology and functioning, and on this we will be meeting Chief Minister Conrad Sangma soon to seek clarification,” Ernest Mawrie told PTI.
Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee president Vincent H Pala called the development “shocking”, and said the party has convened an emergency executive committee meeting on Friday.
Party general secretary Deborah C Marak slammed the legislators for their “unilateral decision”.
“How can the MLAs decide on such a sensitive matter without consulting the MPCC or the party high command in Delhi? We have party guidelines to follow if such a case arises. We will discuss at an appropriate level,” she said.
In a jolt to the Congress, which ruled the state for many years and was a formidable opposition with 17 MLAs, 12 of its lawmakers, including the redoubtable former chief minister Mukul Sangma, defected to the TMC in November last year. The five remaining members of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) joined the ruling alliance on Tuesday, in a reflection of the party’s diminishing influence in the state.
CLP leader Ampareen Lyngdoh had, however, said the MLAs will remain in the Congress.
“We the undersigned MLAs of the Indian National Congress have decided to join the MDA (Meghalaya Democratic Alliance) government today the 8th of February, 2022. We wish to support you and the MDA to strengthen the government’s arms and decision making so as to ensure that our joined (sic) efforts will take the state forward, in the general interest of its citizens,” they said in a letter to Conrad Sangma on Tuesday.
The letter was signed by Ms Lyngdoh, besides PT Sawkmie, Mayralborn Syiem, KS Marbaniang and Mohendro Rapsang. A copy of the letter was also sent to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“The five @INCMeghalaya (Meghalaya Congress) MLAs have decided to join the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance administration in the benefit of the people of the state, particularly our individual constituencies,” Ms Lyngdoh had tweeted with a photo of the Congress MLAs with the chief minister.
“We have joined the MDA but will remain part of the Congress,” she had told PTI.
“The support of the Congress Legislature Party (to MDA) is a separate issue which will not affect the relationship with our coalition partners,” Mr Sangma told journalists.
The NPP-led MDA government has the support of the United Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Front, Hill State People’s Democratic Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement and Independents.
“It is not that we are here to use this situation to our advantage and will begin to sideline the coalition partners. That will never happen and that is not the kind of principles we follow. We always remember the people who were with us during difficult times and will continue to appreciate their support to us and ensure we don’t break our commitments to them,” Mr Sangma said.
He asserted there were no permanent friends and foes in politics.
“Political differences are there at the party level, but when it comes to the state, I am happy if we can work unitedly … We are here to see that ultimately all political parties work together for the development of the state. We are always there to see the people’s interest. When our interest is aligned with that of the Congress based on the reasons and conditions given by its MLAs that they want to supprt MDA in the interest of the people, we are happy to work with them,” Mr Sangma said.
CLP leader Ampareen Lyngdoh defended the move, saying “We took the decision to join the alliance with one thing in mind – to serve the people in our respective constituencies better.” With about a year left for the state assembly polls, speculations are rife that she will likely contest on an NPP ticket. She, however, refused to make any comment on the issue.
“We have joined the MDA as CLP in the interest of our constituents,” she said, and hoped the Congress leadership will understand it.
Her husband Fantin J Lakadong, an elected Congress Member of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, had last week switched over to the NPP.
“It is a fact that the MDC had joined the NPP camp at the Council. He is doing his job and toeing the demand of his electorate,” Ms Lyngdoh said.
The anti-defection law under the 10th Schedule does not apply to the tribal autonomous councils set up under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the state and elected members are free to shift party affiliation.