There seems to be more than what meets the eye in the act of two Independent legislators quitting the opposition alliance in Meghalaya. The two Independent legislators – Saleng A Sangma and John Leslee K Sangma – said they quit the alliance due to the non-cooperative attitude of National People’s Party (NPP) led by Purno A Sangma. The duo also cited NPP’s decision to contest the recent bye-elections in Chokpot. Theoretically, they are right as the winning Congress candidate Bluebell R Sangma polled less votes that the combined votes of two Opposition constituents – NPP and Garo National Council (GNC). Since it was a GNC seat held by Clifford R Marak, who died necessitating the election, the NPP should have supported the GNC candidate. In that case, GNC would have retained the seat. Congress would not have emerged stronger in the 60-member House.
The two Independent legislators’ announcement came at a crucial time of elections to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC). This decision certainly has something to do with the on October-12 polls. Although the duo hinted it by saying that they have asked the NPP not to campaign in their constituencies – Gambagre and South Tura – it is not yet clear as to which side there are in. They apparently denied any support to the Congress candidates. But does it mean their support is for United Democratic Party (UDP), which has launched an ambitious campaign this time in Garo Hills to shed its image of a ‘Khasi party’. The party already made it clear that it would fight it alone all the 29 GHADC seats, which means the party is not in perfect harmony with even its coalition partner NPP. The Opposition Meghalaya People’s Front (MPF) comprises eight legislators from UDP and two NPP. With the UDP’s anti-alliance mood and the two Independents breaking off the MPF, the alliance is prone to further split.
The Independent legislators, meanwhile, disassociated themselves to the NPP’s prime demand of a ‘Garoland’. They termed it an attempt by Purno Sangma’s party to mislead the people. Neither the Congress nor the UDP support the demand for Garoland, although chief minister Mukul Sangma ahead of the Chokpot by-election even went to the extent of promising to consider dialogue on the demand. Overall, this development can be termed as a major blow to the political ambitions of the former Lok Sabha Speaker and his two sons, if not anything more.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 18, 2015)