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Lapang in limbo after House crisis

Shillong, Dec. 21: Meghalaya chief minister D.D. Lapang faced the prospect of a premature ouster from office a day after the embarrassment of seeing members of the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) ganging up with the Opposition to veto the proposal to build a new Assembly complex at Mawdiangdiang.

The government today failed to get a contingency fund bill passed in the Assembly, but the unkindest cut was MDA legislators seeking a change in leadership and conveying their disapproval of the chief minister's 'way of functioning' to the Congress high command.

Congress MLA from Laitumkhrah Robert Lyngdoh, Planning Board co-chairperson and Meghalaya Democratic Party legislator Process T. Sawkmie and United Democratic Party legislator J.A. Lyngdoh are understood to be in favour of state Congress president and former chief minister Salseng C. Marak becoming the leader of the ruling coalition.

'MLAs and ministers of the MDA met me to say they wanted a change in leadership. This indicates there is something wrong with the present leadership,' , Marak said, giving no indication of being averse to taking over the reins of the alliance.

Marak reportedly told MDA members who trooped to his residence that the onus was on the AICC to decide whether he should replace Lapang.

Sources said the AICC had summoned Marak and Lapang to New Delhi tomorrow to discuss the developments.

Lapang's day began on an ominous note with Assembly proceedings being disrupted by Opposition legislators, who raucously demanded his resignation.

Later, MDA members prevented the government from passing the Contingency Fund of Meghalaya (Amendment) Bill, 2004.

Speaker Martin M. Danggo, who yesterday put the Assembly complex proposal to vote, prorogued the House sine die without passing the bill, which had been tabled by deputy chief minister Donkupar Roy.

Lapang's deputy, who also holds the finance portfolio, sought a hike in the existing contingency fund from Rs 6 crore to Rs 105 crore.

The bill was first tabled yesterday and rejected by the Opposition and a section of the ruling coalition on the ground that the requisite financial statements had not been presented.

Robert Lyngdoh, a former home minister, said during the second debate on the bill that the government was violating rules governing the conduct of business in the House. He accused the Lapang administration of not being transparent and playing 'hide and seek' with public funds.

Other ruling coalition members like P.M. Syiem and R.L. Tariang joined in, haranguing Roy to 'accept his mistake' and provide details of the expenses for which the hike in the contingency fund had been sought.

When the deputy chief minister failed in his attempts to convince them about the necessity of increasing the fund, Lapang said his government had been left with no option but to promulgate an ordinance.

Though shaken by the developments within and outside the Assembly, the chief minister indicated he was not ready to throw in the towel yet.

He said the government 'will go till the end' and warned members of the ruling coalition of disciplinary action if they continued the revolt.

An aide said Lapang was prepared to face questions from the high command about the reasons for the sudden revolt, especially within the Congress.

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