Can the people of the state breathe a sigh of relief, now that Dr Mukul Sangma finally has the guts to call a spade a spade and do away with trouble makers in his cabinet? Obviously the answer is no, the tell-tale signs of the swearing in the ceremony of the new ministers as reported by the media left so many questions unanswered. When more than half of the Congress legislators are baying for his blood, the question is how long can he keep the leadership crisis issue in the backburner and concentrate on governance? Until and unless the intra-party stalemate is resolved, Mukul will find it difficult if not impossible to get into the business of governing. Though Mukul has the support of the high command, it remains to be seen how best he can make use of the grace period that the high command has given him.
At least for the time being Mukul can go back to his Chief Minister’s secretariat and start doing the job that people expect him to do. Mukul, unlike his bête noire, is being praised by many for his sincere and genuine desire to take the state further on the road of development. People spoken to are in favour of giving him a chance to complete his term as Chief Minister. Unfortunately the support is from the layman and lay woman in the street and not his fellow legislators from the Congress party who can make the difference. Many independent observers with no particular bent of mind recognize that Mukul has it in him to take the state forward. Many question how he can be expected to change Meghalaya overnight when he has only completed one year of his term. The allegation of rebel Congress MLA’s of Mukul’s style of functioning is an internal matter of the Congress; even his refusal to convene the CLP meeting is none of our business. They should have settled the issue internally and not wash their dirty linens in the street. Thank goodness the party leadership in the capital did not give in to the demands of the dissidents. The Congress is the single largest party supported by the other likeminded parties and individuals which has the mandate to govern and that is what people expect the party to do.
On the other hand, the rebel Congress group’s choice of a new Chief Ministerial candidate in the person of old DD Lapang smacks of hypocrisy. How can a person they had declared unfit to be the Chief Minister a year ago, now be ready to take on the same mantle? Has he done any special course or has he been to any counseling or perhaps even yoga class (with some Baba may be) that would make the rebel Congress MLAs change their mind and decide that he is not the same DD Lapang that they had helped overthrow a year ago? The people of the state know DD Lapang’s style of functioning. His (non) performance in his many stints as a chief minister is still fresh in the minds of many denizens of the state. There is no love lost between the people of the state and DD Lapang anyway. Maybe the rebel Congress MLAs would got peoples’ support if they had come up with a new face as a Chief Ministerial candidate. But how can they when everybody is a contender for the post? The problem in the Congress party now is every MLA wants to be a minister and every leader wants to be a chief minister.
One would also expect many elderly Congressmen like OL Nongtdu, Friday Lyngdoh and even DD Lapang to call it a day and retire gracefully, but that is not to happen. It seems Congressmen like communist comrades do not retire but they just fade away. In countries where they have real democracy, when politicians have run their race, they retire from politics gracefully. John Major, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and even George Bush junior, keep a respectable distance from politics after they have retired even though age is still on their side. Why can’t the distinguished Congressmen for the love of the party create a second rank leadership then support and guide the young generation rather than creating a problem every time younger people try to step into their shoes? Had it been me, I would wish to spend the twilight of my life with my near and dear ones and particularly to spend the best part of it with my grand children and may be make amends for past mistakes. But not so our Congressmen!
The Congress legislators are making a mockery of democracy and have taken the people of the state for a ride for three long months. The purported 18 Congress MLAs had literally taken the entire state hostage. Sadly the final curtain of the drama is yet to be drawn down. It is truly said that democracy is not the best form government because if the situation arises that we have 29 wise men and 31 fools in the house, then no one can save us! The state had literarily been without a government during these last three months; it’s time for the legislators to get down to business and spare us their diatribes against each other. We voted them to serve the state and not to indulge in a never ending game of musical chairs. Talking about the musical chair game, it will be interesting if somebody tries to find out the numbers of trips the Congress legislators took to Delhi during the three months period and the amount of money they spent. If an attendance register was maintained at the Secretariat, it would also be interesting to know who and how many days did the Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries attend office during the period. Why don’t the Congress legislators realize the embarrassment they put Madam Sonia to? The party already has more problems in its hand than it can handle, from the Lok Pal Bill, to Anna Hazare, to Baba Ramdev, black money and the never ending corruption charges. Hence leaders can hardly spare time for Congress legislators fighting for scraps. The people of Meghalaya are also fed up with the infighting in the Congress. They want them to end this mockery as soon as possible.
The other pertinent question is, whether it is wise for Mukul Sangma to punish the rebel MLAs and reward only his close confidantes? Mukul’s strategy of rewarding his supporter will backfire and further widen the gap instead of narrowing it. Since they all belong to the same party one would expect an astute politician like Dr. Mukul to play his cards well and walk the middle path pleasing both sides rather than widen the chasm. Mukul has further aggravated the already tense situation. If at all Mukul can complete this term, seeing a united Congress party before the 2013 elections is a distant dream if not impossible. The three months stalemate will not augur well for the party. Leaders may think that public memory is very short and by 2013 voters will forget about it. But if the Congress MLAs continue with their infighting they will have only themselves to blame when the results are declared in 2013. From what we have experienced of late, I think we need to suggest one more condition in the proposed electoral reforms of the Election Commission of India. Apart from the condition that the candidates not only need to declare their wealth, they also require to mention the source of their income and the inclusion of the non-of-the-above button in the electronic voting machine. I think we should also have a law to recall our MLA or MDC if they do not perform their duties or if the voters are not satisfies with the way he or she functions. If we have such stringent laws, then I think the situation in Meghalaya is a fit case for people to recall their MLAs. (The writer is an elder of the Unitarian church, scholar and a political commentator)The Shillong Times Monday, June 13, 2011.