Shillong, Oct. 22: Meghalaya chief minister F.A. Khonglam today took the bull by the horns, dropping finance minister A.H. Scott Lyngdoh from his 10-month-old government. But he was forced on the backfoot when the Congress, a part of the ruling People’s Forum of Meghalaya, came out in support of the axed minister.
The decision to drop Scott Lyngdoh, who had demanded the chief minister’s resignation for various acts of omission and commission, was taken last evening. Khonglam not only dropped his finance minister but even accused Scott Lyngdoh of spreading canards against him to hide “his own misdemeanours together with those of principal secretary (finance) Peter James Bazeley in the Meghalaya House scam and other controversies”.
The chief minister charged Lyngdoh and Bazeley with being “two sides of the same coin”. He said he should “have taken action against them earlier for their involvement in the Meghalaya House scam but because they were loyal to the government I protected them”.
Dismissing Scott Lyngdoh’s allegations as “a big lie”, Khonglam said: “He is too close to Bazeley and could not take it when he (Bazeley) was transferred to New Delhi.” He also charged Bazeley with “controlling” all projects, including MLA schemes. “He has done things his way for seven years and thinks no one can touch him,” Khonglam said.
Though Khonglam’s decisions found support among many in Scott Lyngdoh’s Meghalaya Democratic Party (MDP), it was nullified to a certain extent after the Congress backed the axed minister.
Scott Lyngdoh’s former colleague in the United Democratic Party (UDP), Bires Nongsiej, who is also a minister in the PFM government, felt “there is nothing wrong with how the chief minister reacted”. Asked if his party would hold a meeting to discuss the fallout of the situation, he replied in the negative.
Other UDP members also seemed happy with the developments and called it a “stunt” by Scott Lyngdoh to garner political mileage for the coming Assembly elections. Others wanted to know “what prompted Scott Lyngdoh to react so late in the day”.
The MDP went into a huddle to discuss the developments. Party president Martle Mukhim was not available for comment as he was away.
But the Congress demanded dissolution of the Assembly. State party chief S.C. Marak, referred to as the “Mr Clean” of Meghalaya politics, supported Scott Lyngdoh’s outburst against Khonglam.
“He (Scott Lyngdoh) has taken the right stand, but it is too late to change the leadership. Therefore, early elections are the best alternative,” he said, while reiterating his stand that the government was not performing.
An unfazed Scott Lyngdoh said, “I am preparing an illustrative account of how he (Khonglam) has manipulated things.”
Categorically stating that he would not resign from the government, the finance minister came out in the open last evening and charged the chief minister with being a dictator. He had demanded Khonglam’s replacement by a more “acceptable leader”.
A major political upheaval is in the offing in Meghalaya. Six of the eight MDP legislators have reportedly decided to pull out of the government.