Crisis in Meghalaya Congress is back again. If PN Syiem’s adamant attitude against government aka chief minister Mukul Sangma for months was the indication, MP Vincent Pala’s open support to Syiem made it all clear. It is now for any common man to understand the vertical divide within the ruling party. While Mukul’s rivalry with cabinet minister Deborah Marak is another open secret, last but not the least an unexpected member came out against the chief minister. Deputy chief minister Rowell Lyngdoh had no qualms in revealing that he wrote a letter to Mukul asking for review of a recent government order against traditional headmen. Understood so far to be on Mukul’s side so far, Rowell has indicated that the cabinet of 12 including Mukul is divided too.
There have been several waves of dissidence against the ‘dictatorial’ Mukul Sangma since he brought the party back in power with highest number of seats, albeit short of absolute majority, in 2013. Every time the All India Congress Committee (AICC) would depute observers to put an end to the crisis. There would be headlines speculating, on the basis of ‘reliable sources’, as to how many MLAs are in the dissident group and numbers in the Mukul camp. Vincent Pala, the only Congress MP from the state, has been learnt to have never backed Mukul, if not instigated the dissidents, in such crises. But Mukul remained unperturbed so far. Like the dissidents, he too would fly to Delhi frequently on ‘official visits’. Having no alternative leader who would sail the Congress boat in Meghalaya till 2018, the AICC has not taken the risk of removing Mukul so far. The high command has so far resisted its perennial habit of entertaining political rifts in ruling dispensations in Meghalaya. Call it his ‘dynamic’ nature or command over affairs of the state like nobody else, Mukul is still firm on his chair.
This present political crisis has been brewing for a long time, especially in Khasi-Jaintia Hills. It started with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on coal mining. The Mukul-led government was blamed for not being able to fight the ban and see it withdrawn. On the other hand, Pala used this opportunity very well to side with the mine owners and made an image for himself as someone trying to protect the interest of indigenous people living in Khasi-Jaintia Hills. So, is something going to happen this time? Very unlikely. AICC, already in shambles since its historic debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, would not take any chance to allow its image go for further beating.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 5, 2016)