Shillong: National People’s Party president Conrad Sangma is set to become the next chief minister of Meghalaya after forming a coalition with the BJP, two regional parties and an Independent on Sunday.
He met Governor Ganga Prasad and staked claim to form the government in the state with the support of 34 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly.The oath taking ceremony is likely to take place on Tuesday morning.
Meghalaya threw up a fractured mandate on Saturday with the ruling Congress emerging as the largest party, marginally ahead of its rival, the National People's Party (NPP), an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Manipur.
Political buzz had gripped the hill state after the result as both Congress and BJP, NPP combine raced to form an alliance. Both the sides had the same tally, 21, and needed nine more MLAs to stake a claim.
But it was always going to be an uphill task for the Congress as almost all the regional parties had fought the elections on an anti-Congress plank after 10 years of Mukul Sangma rule.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) emerged as the kingmaker with six seats. Its president Donkupar Roy told the media that his party would extend support to the NPP to form a “non-Congress” government.
The announcement of the grand alliance came after a closed door meeting between UDP leaders and BJP leaders Kiren Rijiju, KJ Alphons and Himanta Biswa Sarma at Roy’s residence. “We will have a non-Congress government in Meghalaya and the Centre has promised to extend all support to the government,” Rijiju said.
Sangma met the Governor in the evening. “We submitted a letter of support from 34 MLAs 19 of the NPP, six of the the United Democratic Party (UDP), four of the People's Democratic Front (PDF), two each of the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) and the BJP and an Independent," he said outside the Raj Bhavan.
The NPP leader is the youngest son of former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, who died in 2016. He was elected a Member of Parliament in a by-election from Tura constituency after his father's death.
Asked about the challenges of running a coalition government, the 40-year-old Tura MP said, "It is not an easy task. But the parties who are supporting us are committed to work for the welfare of the people and the state. We will work on a common agenda."
Himanta Biswa Sarma confirmed that NPP’s Sangma will be the chief minister. He also said that no deputy CM will be appointed just to please the alliance partners. Talking about the likely cabinet in the state, Sarma said that one MLA out of every two MLAs of all the parties will form part of the government. “So 1 MLA out of the 2 BJP MLAs will be a part of it too,” he said.
For the Congress, which had bagged 21 seats, eight less than in the last elections, Sunday’s developments were a major setback as it had rushed senior leaders Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath to Shillong to avoid a repeat of Goa and Manipur, where too it had failed to form governments despite being the single largest party.
The party’s working president in Meghalaya, Vincent Pala, said the Congress accepts the verdict of the people. “We will keep fighting for the issues of people of Meghalaya. It's easy to stake claim, since there is a fractured mandate. It is easy to form government but difficult to govern. We will play a constructive role in whatever position we will be in,” he said.