The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong cries for bigger ministry
- CMs plan to move Sonia for support

Kohima, Aug. 20: Congress leaders from the region are raising the pitch for modifications in the constitutional amendment that limits the size of ministries to 15 per cent of the strength of the Assemblies.

A senior Congress leader from Nagaland said over phone from New Delhi that a memorandum would be submitted to the party high command soon, explaining how the limitation on size has affected the Northeast and smaller states such as Goa. He said the ideal ratio would be six ministers for every 20 legislators.

Meghalaya chief minister D.D. Lapang, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Nagaland Congress legislative party leader I. Imkong will attend the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi to raise the issue.

It was to be discussed first by the Northeast Congress Co-ordination Committee, but the meeting was postponed because of the CWC conclave.

The memorandum, Imkong said, would be discussed by the Congress leaders from the region after the CWC conclave.

Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have 60 Assembly seats each, while Mizoram and Sikkim have 40 and 32 MLAs. Goa, too, has 40 Assembly seats.

The Congress lobby plans to present a “watertight proposal” before Sonia Gandhi and other leaders of the party.

The maximum number of ministers the northeastern states, except Assam, can have is 12. The chief ministers downsized their ministries in July, but have since been saddled with dissension.

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio twice led delegations to Delhi and submitted memoranda in a bid to get the state exempted from the purview of the constitutional amendment. The state argued that like Jammu and Kashmir, it was also in the “special category”.

The ongoing peace process and tribal diversity were proffered as arguments while seeking special treatment.

Much before that, Congress leaders from the Northeast met Pranab Mukherjee in Shillong to convince him that the region should be left out of the purview of the amendment.

Rio recently appointed 12 of the sidelined ministers as parliamentary secretaries to “assist” the government. However, senior NPF leader Z. Obed and BJP stalwart Tiameren Aier were ignored. Another leader, Shurhozelie Liezietsu of the NPF, lost plum portfolios.

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