Shillong, Aug. 25: Meghalaya chief minister F.A. Khonglam today dared his “friend-philosopher-guide”, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Purno .A. Sangma, to take a stand against him on the controversial online lottery deal.
Khonglam, who has been facing flak from various quarters for signing a “lopsided” agreement with a company owned by Assam MP Mani Kumar Subba, said he would not hesitate to sever ties with the NCP if the party did not toe the government’s line on the lottery deal.
Condemning the remarks, NCP spokesman Fearless Warjri said his party would give a befitting reply soon. “The NCP will meet as soon as Sangma arrives and take a decision, which might be a drastic one.”
On Thursday, the government quietly sealed its online lottery agreement with M.S. Associates, provoking political parties and NGOs to threaten an agitation of the kind that followed the Calcutta Meghalaya House deal.
But Khonglam refuted allegations of having sold out to Subba’s company. “Subba is a Congressman, but that is not why his firm got the contract. I am not appeasing any Congress leader. The decision to sign the online lottery agreement was a collective one by the Cabinet. I did not have a personal say in the matter,” he told The Telegraph.
On the People’s Rally against Corruption (PRAC), he said the organisation was unnecessarily making a hue and cry. “Where were they when the E.K. Mawlong government signed an agreement' They should have shouted then and not used this opportunity to prove their existence,” he said.
Khonglam said he “would go it alone” should the need arise, though he admitted to being disturbed by the chain reaction to Meghalaya Democratic Party (MDP) member D.P. Iangjuh’s ouster from the ministry.
After being stripped of the general administration portfolio, Iangjuh threatened to turn the tables on Khonglam with an exposé on his “role in controversial deals”. He challenged the chief minister to an “open debate on the online lottery deal and other controversies”.
Dismissing the allegations, Khonglam said Iangjuh was a politician without credibility. “Let him say what he wants to, I am clean. I was always against including Iangjuh in the Cabinet for his role in the Meghalaya Cements Corporation Ltd. scandal, but pressure from the MDP force me to accommodate him.”
However, Khonglam’s colleagues in the NCP, of which he is an associate member, sang a different tune.
“He is trying to find a scapegoat to cover up his involvement in controversial deals. If he is clean, why doesn’t he provide a straight answer to one question: why the sudden hurry to clear the decks for the online lottery when the government could have bargained for more profits'” an NCP leader said.
The first salvo had been fired by the BJP, which claimed to have evidence of “some personalities” having received kickbacks in the lottery deal.
State BJP president W. Kharshiing said his party would move the Centre for a CBI inquiry into the deal.