Shillong, March 19: Meghalaya’s affair with loosely knit coalitions continues.
Barring the first elected government, this state has always been ruled by combinations of parties that have struggled to stay united for a year, let alone endure one another’s company for a full term. Only one chief minister of a coalition government — Salseng C. Marak — lasted five years and the new man in the hot seat, Donkupar Roy, is probably not even thinking beyond a month.
Pro tem Speaker H.S. Lyngdoh, who has seen it all since becoming an MLA in the first Assembly in 1972, blames the electorate for the instability that comes with coalition politics.
“We approach them to give us the majority, but the electorate gives us a fractured mandate. We cannot help falling back on a coalition. The political establishment has learnt to live with the fear of instability in a coalition. We have to make it work for us and for the state,” he said today.
Lyngdoh, who heads the Hill State People’s Democratic Party, said the trend would continue if voters did not choose a single political party to head the government.
Meghalaya was actually worse off before the anti-defection law took effect. As many as six governments ruled the state between 1998 and 2003, creating a record that could never be broken. The next five years saw one government but three changes at the helm — D.D. Lapang first replaced F.A. Khonglam, J.D. Rymbai then replaced Lapang and, after just eight months, Lapang replaced Rymbai.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma, whose Nationalist Congress Party is partnering Roy’s United Democratic Party and other regional forces in the new government, said the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance would buck the trend.
Determined to keep this coalition of disparate forces united, Sangma has stepped aside for Roy to become chief minister for the first two-and-a-half years despite his party being the largest constituent of the group with 14 legislators.
Rymbai, who has witnessed the rise and fall of many governments, said single-party rule was ideal for any state but there was nothing wrong in a coalition ministry in the absence of a clear mandate.
A chastened Lapang admitted that the Congress would not have survived the floor test that was to be held today, but said it was still the only party capable of providing a stable government. The more significant remark was that he would try his best to wrest power.
How? By cobbling together a coalition, of course!