Meghalaya set to create another political history

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Shillong, Mar 18 (UNI) Meghalaya is set to create political history in the country when Assembly Pro-tem Speaker, Hoping Stone Lyngdoh presides over the trial of strength of the Congress-led government provided Chief Minister DD Lapang decides to face the trust vote in the Assembly.

The chief minister, who is heading the minority Meghalaya United Alliance government, will prove his majority in the 60-member House tomorrow as per the provision of the constitution.

Earlier, the Assembly Speaker's election was scheduled to be held today, but Mr Lapang, on the advise of his party's colleagues, is said to have put it off and instead decided to have the trial of strength before the Speaker's election.

The Congress has been trying to entice the veteran legislator (Mr Lyngdoh) to join the MUA but failed, despite AICC general secretary in-charge Meghalaya, Margaret Alva requesting him to extend support to the Congress.

The Congress, which emerged as the single largest party, was short of just six seats to cross the majority threshold in the 60-member House.

Mr Lapang, however, roped in three Independent MLAs and increased its tally to 28 seats. One seat was still vacant owing to the death of the Congress candidate from Baghmara constituency.

Election to the Baghmara constituency is scheduled on March 22.

Counting will be held on March 25.

On the other hand, five non-Congress parties, under the banner of the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance, reiterated their confidence to dislodge the Congress-led MUA government in the Assembly.

The MPA comprises the NCP (14), UDP (11), Hill State Peoples Democratic Party (2), two Independents and one each from the BJP and the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement.

Political observers here say the postponement of the Speaker's election is a political ploy of the Congress of having the trust vote before the Speaker's election.

But former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP MLA PA Sangma said, ''I do not know the logic behind having the trial of strength before the Speaker's election, but it will not make any difference as the MUA will be voted out.'' As per convention, he said, the job of the Pro-tem Speaker was only to administer the oath of secrecy to legislators, besides facilitating the election of the Speaker.

Former chief minister and Assembly Speaker, JD Rymbai also echoed the same view, but said, the government should not ignore the usual procedure of the Assembly.

Journalist-turned-politician Manas Chaudhuri, however, said though the pro-tem Speaker has all the powers vested in him as that of a Speaker, still Meghalaya had never witnessed a situation where the pro-term Speaker presides over the trust vote.

''This is for the first time, perhaps, in the whole country when the trust motion is being held before the Speaker's election,'' Mr Chaudhuri said.

However, political observers said that Chief Minister Lapang might put in his papers this evening to avoid embarrassment on the floor of the House.

UNI RRK PL KLC1748

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