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Mukul rules out quitting post

- Meghalaya CM regrets ‘overconfidence’ over Tura seat result

Shillong, May 22: Mukul Sangma today rejected talk of his stepping down as Meghalaya chief minister in the wake of the Congress’s failure to win both the Lok Sabha seats in the state. But he acknowledged there was dissent within the Congress Legislature Party.

The chief minister also dismissed the apprehension that the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA-II) government in the state would suffer because of a change in the government at the Centre headed by Narendra Modi.

“This is the time for everybody to come together to strengthen the party,” Mukul told reporters here, brushing aside speculation that he would resign as chief minister.

Analysing the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls from Shillong and Tura Lok Sabha seats, he said the result from Tura could have been positive had it not been a straight contest.

However, he regretted being overconfident about winning from Tura.

“It was a straight contest from Tura and we were overconfident of winning. In Shillong, there were many candidates in the fray. What would have happened to the Shillong seat if it was a straight fight like in Tura?” he asked.

The Congress managed to retain the Shillong seat through its sitting member of Parliament, Vincent H. Pala, despite infighting where some Congress legislators allegedly did not support his candidature and extended support to an Independent candidate, P.B.M. Basaiawmoit.

However the Congress failed to oust NPP president and former Lok Sabha Speaker, Purno A. Sangma from his home turf, Tura, which he had won for the 10th time.

On the Opposition’s (NPP and United Democratic Party) demand to quit as chief minister over the failure of the Congress to win both the Lok Sabha seats in the state, Mukul said, “It’s their job and habit to make such a demand.”

The NPP and UDP recently demanded that Mukul should step down gracefully.

Though the Congress won from Shillong, the UDP alleged that for the chief minister, it was losing both the seats as he did not support the Congress candidate (Pala) and instead backed the Independent candidate, P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, from Shillong.

Though Mukul said he was not aware of a growing dissidence within the CLP to oust him as chief minister, he acknowledged the rift within the party saying, “There has been such a move (to topple me) and it is in the present continuous tense and not past tense. There is nothing new in it.”

On the future relationship of the Congress-led government in the state with the BJP-led NDA one at the Centre, Mukul said the country has a strong federal structure where the central government has never discriminated against the state governments based on party affiliations.

However, he said at times it works to one’s advantage when the state and central governments are ruled by different political parties.

“We did not have the privilege of criticising the central government, which was run by our own party (Congress),” the chief minister said.

Mukul, who had earlier criticised the candidature of Modi as Prime Minister, said the poll verdict was not a Modi wave but because the people had wanted change.

“It was a strong anti-incumbency wave, which Modi and the BJP took advantage of. People did not look for Modi alone, otherwise why did the AIADMK, BJD, Trinamul Congress and Left win in the states of Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal and Tripura,” he said.

No judicial inquiry

The chief minister also ruled out a judicial inquiry into the custodial death of a teenager, Balsan Marak.

While in judicial custody, Marak had died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday morning and it was alleged that it was a result of police torture.

The chief minister said it was not correct to jump to conclusions.

“The state government has instituted an inquiry headed by commissioner of divisions, Peter W. Ingty,” he said, adding that the guilty would not be spared.