They are on the same page, at least on one occasion. Known for their political rivalry, Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) chief executive member (CEM) PN Syiem recently succumbed to pressure of anti-uranium mining groups and took back their respective decisions. While the government revoked a 2009 deal with the (Uranium Mining Corporation, the KHADC went back on its decision to give a partial NOC to a Centrally-funded road, halfway into the mining-rich area in West Khasi Hills region. It’s huge embarrassment for both the Congress leaders, who are poles apart in their political space. They gave different excuses for taking back their decisions, none convincing though.
While Sangma is seen to be a person in favour of development even at the cost of so-called indigenous rights, Syiem very often resorts to the “indigenous” sentiment (of Khasi Hills) to justify his political stand. Both are, in a way, correct in their political stands. The chief minister cannot be seen as saviour of one particular community. On the other hand, it is the mandate of the CEM to look after the interest of a tribal community for which the ADCs are formed under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. But what prompted them to take back their decisions is too obvious – the 2018 assembly election. With BJP at the Centre and also in neighbouring Assam, there is an air of uncertainty in the political circle of the state. A party which has never been a considerable factor in the state politics has threatened to become, at least, the kingmaker in 2018. Both CM and Syiem, despite their rivalry, have not hesitated to be on the same page on the issue of uranium mining.
No state or country has prospered unless their respective governments are strong. Even if there is prosperity, what will be missing is inclusive growth, social security, equitable rights. This is a key factor of the lack of development in north-eastern states. Meghalaya is a ‘leading’ state in matters of political instability. Weakness of the government machinery comes to fore every time it buckles under pressure of NGOs, who are more feared upon than the Opposition. Elected representatives hardly have a chance to go to the House – either government or ADCs – or to an all-party meeting for making decisions on controversial issues. And, the Opposition conveniently takes the side of NGOs in such matters. A strong government as well as Opposition are the need of the hour.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 5, 2016)