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Equal power cry for councils

Shillong, Jan. 16: The National People’s Party (NPP) today demanded equal powers for the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) in line with the proposed extension of powers and seats of the Garo Hills autonomous district council (GHADC).

The A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) had demanded a hike in the number of seats in the GHADC from existing 30 to 40, apart from granting more powers to the autonomous district council.

This was made known when the agreed text of settlement was inked in January last year. Although the state government had cleared the demand, the Centre was yet to give its nod.

However, even if the Centre concedes to the demand, Parliament has to be convened in order to amend the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to give effect to the demand.

“All these are going to take time. The Meghalaya government wanted to hold the (GHADC) elections along with KHADC and JHADC, knowing fully well that this agreement and amendment would take time. But reportedly, the ANVC did not agree,” NPP president Purno Agitok Sangma told reporters.

He also claimed that the outfit had “threatened” chief minister Mukul Sangma.

“So here again, the Meghalaya government is acting after pressure of the militants which is dangerous for the state. The government has lost its independent authority and surrendered to the militants,” Purno Sangma said.

The government has recently decided to hold elections to the KHADC and the JHADC on February 24 while it extended the tenure of the GHADC by six months.

The former Lok Sabha Speaker said the main point of discussions within the NPP was that if the strength of the GHADC has to be increased and more powers have to be given, why should the KHADC and the JHADC be denied the same.

“Whatever agreement has been signed, it should automatically apply to KHADC and JHADC. This is our demand,” he added.

NPP legislator James K. Sangma condemned the “discriminatory role” of the Congress government which, according to him, was denying the Khasi and Jaintia hills the opportunity of increasing the number of seats.

“It (government) is trying to bring a divide between the three tribes of Meghalaya,” James Sangma alleged, adding that uniformity should be maintained.

The NPP has decided to set up candidates for the KHADC and JHADC polls after holding consultations with the United Democratic Party.