Sonia 'forces' Lapang exit - Rymbai is new Meghalaya CM

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  • Published 16.06.06

Shillong, June 15: A dour struggle to keep the reins of power in the face of a revolt by his flock ended in a dramatic exit for D.D. Lapang today and the entry of a former acolyte, J. Dringwell Rymbai, as the next Meghalaya chief minister.

Lapang had done everything ? he even rushed to rival P.A. Sangma for “outside” support from the Nationalist Congress Party ? to retain his post. In the end, it took some coaxing by Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s emissary, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, and the realisation that he was fighting a losing battle for Lapang to throw in the towel.

Mukherjee, who arrived in the state capital this afternoon, announced after a meeting with the Congress Legislature Party that Lapang had “expressed his desire to resign”. He also said the high command had accepted his resignation and approved the legislature party’s choice of Rymbai, at 72 not a year younger than his predecessor, as the head of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance.

The Congress calls the shots in the ruling alliance, having 29 legislators in a House of 60. Its allies are the United Democratic Party (eight MLAs), Meghalaya Democratic Party (four), Hill State Peoples Democratic Party (two) and the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (two).

A series of meetings in New Delhi and Shillong over the past 24 hours sealed Lapang’s fate. A legislature party meeting on Monday had left it to the high command to decide whether he should continue to head the coalition.

Union minister Oscar Fernandez and observer Ved Prakash, who had returned to New Delhi after the first legislature party meeting to brief Sonia on the developments, made a second trip to Shillong with Mukherjee to oversee the change of guard.

Standing in for his Meghalaya counterpart M.M. Jacob, who is on leave, Manipur governor S.S. Sidhu administered the oath of office to Rymbai and two other ministers, UDP president Donkupar Roy and MDP chief Martle Mukhim. The rest of the 12-member ministry may be sworn in tomorrow.

Asked why the AICC took so long to end the impasse, Mukherjee said: “So what? We have taken the decision now.” The defence minister also denied that the AICC had anything to do with Lapang, Fernandez and Prakash’s visit to Sangma’s house on Tuesday. “Sangma has nothing to do with the MDA.”