Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma’s one-point agenda has been to ensure continuity of the Congress for peace and stability. Umanand Jaiswal caught up with the man, for whom today’s poll is a huge challenge, at Mahendraganj.
Excerpts from the interview:
What have been the significant changes for you between the 2008 and 2013 elections?
From MLA I went on to become the chief minister. A year was lost as we sat in the Opposition but a lot of positives have happened during my tenure of two years and nine months. 2013 has sparked hope among the masses.
What are the positives? Isn’t the Congress manifesto unrealistic?
We have adopted a holistic and structured development approach to make Meghalaya poverty-free within 10 years, which will also be the 50th year of our statehood. The focus is on development of rural people, who make up 80 per cent of our population. We will implement what we promised.
But the Opposition has painted a bleak picture about the state of affairs, particularly on the law and order front.
These are its (Opposition’s) perceptions and creations. These allegations will be proved wrong soon. Just see the development activities which are under way here (Mahendraganj) or in other areas. They will be proved wrong.
Most complain about Meghalaya remaining cut off during unrest in neighbouring Assam. What are you doing to meet this challenge?
It’s true. We are fast-tracking several road projects like the Tura-Shillong road. It will be completed by 2014. We have also got a new national highway through Phulbari sanctioned. We are also encouraging border trade with Bangladesh.
Isn’t infighting affecting the Congress’s prospects?
There is no infighting. Differences of opinion cannot be dubbed infighting. Had it been so, I would not have backed senior leader D.D. Lapang as PCC president. We are a united house. I have faith in the people that they will give a mandate for a brighter and prosperous future.
The Congress’s role in the presidential election has been criticised by P.A. Sangma, who says the party insulted Garo pride by attacking him and that it will be reflected in the Assembly poll result.
Presidential poll is not an issue here. He (Sangma) is saying all this to create space for himself in the media. Most people I am sure don’t even know about the NPP! How can they know when he organises and abandons parties on a whim? His style weakens democracy.
Is creation of the four new districts last year politically motivated?
Please ask the people what they feel about the new districts. We have taken the government closer to the people for focussed development.