Shillong, Dec 29: Eight MLAs in Meghalaya, including five of the ruling Congress, resigned from the state assembly to join NDA constituent National People's Party (NPP), just a few months ahead of elections.
Those who put in their papers are former deputy chief minister Rowell Lyngdoh, Sniawbhalang Dhar, Comingone Ymbon, Prestone Tynsong, and Ngaitlang Dhar of the Congress, Remington Pyngrope of the United Democratic Party and Independents Stephanson Mukhim and Hopeful Bamon, Assembly Principal Secretary Andrew Simons told PTI.
The five Congress legislators had earlier rebelled against Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and the party leadership. Four of the five Congress MLAs were part of the state cabinet and were sacked by the chief minister on the grounds of "incompetence".
Rowell, a veteran Congress leader, later announced that all the eight MLAs, would join the NPP, also an alliance partner of the BJP in the Manipur government, at a rally next week. The NPP, led by Conrad K Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, has two MLAs in Meghalaya at present. With today's resignation, which comes days after another MLA, PN Syiem, quit the Congress, the number of party MLAs in the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly has come down to 24 from 30. However, there is no immediate threat to the Congress government as it has support of nine Independents which takes its tally to 33. The term of the current House expires on March 6.
Elections in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura are due early next year. An elated Conrad Sangma said the decision of the five Congress MLAs to resign and join the NPP next week was a big boost for the party. "It is a big boost for the NPP ahead of the elections in the state ... We will felicitate their joining the party next week. We welcome their decision and we are confident to form the next government in Meghalaya," Conrad Sangma told PTI. He said their leaving the Congress and joining the NPP indicates that the party was the only alternative available to the people in the state.
The NPP chief said: "More than 10 per cent of the Congress MLAs have resigned. This implies that the leadership under Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has failed." The 79-year-old Rowell had to leave the Congress following a leadership tussle with Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and he was sacked from the cabinet last year. Rowell had contested all the nine elections in the state and was elected an MLA for the sixth time in 2013.
"Eight MLAs submitted their resignation to me at the office of the Speaker today. The Speaker was on a tour and was not available at his office," Assembly Principal Secretary Andrew Simons told PTI. He said the resignation letters have been sent by email to Speaker Abu Taher Mondal. "We are joining the NPP on January 4 at a rally at Pologrounds," Rowell told reporters. He said it was a difficult decision to leave the Congress but he was compelled to do so "because of the people".
Hitting out at the chief minister, the former deputy chief minister said, "The autocratic style of functioning of the chief minister had made it difficult for me and others to function in the government." Rowell said the decision to set up a medical college in the state capital Shillong on PPP mode and another one in Tura to be funded by the state government, was taken without consultations in the cabinet.
He also slammed the state Congress president DD Lapang, who he alleged gave into the diktats of the chief minister and went ahead and dissolved the block Congress committee in many constituencies. Senior Congress leader and former cabinet minister Prestone Tynsong said the prospects of the Congress in Meghalaya will be badly hit.