'Polls not a fight between me and Conrad'
Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma, who is making his final pitch to drum up support for the Congress, says election has been tough and challenging, but nonetheless he has been able to infuse in the mind of people why they should vote for the Congress again. In an exclusive interview to Saidul Khan of The Telegraph, he said elections are not easy but he is banking on the good works of the government to win the trust of people.
You are among the very few chief ministers of Meghalaya who has been able to complete a full term. But your opponents are alleging lack of development and unfulfilled promises. Do you think this election is going to be the toughest in your political career?
That way every election is tough. I do not think any election is easy. Therefore, we take up this election as a challenge; we have done our job. We have promised people what we need to promise and it has been reflected in our party manifesto. To fulfil the promises we make in the manifesto we have embarked on a number of initiatives And I must tell you one thing - out of the promises we had made in the party manifesto in the 2013 elections, we have been able to implement almost all of those. In the whole affairs of governance over a period of five years you will also confront a number of issues and challenges. We have been able to deal with those issues to set a new benchmark in transparency and effective delivery of the programmes.
The NPP, being a Garo hills party, is now making inroads into Khasi and Jaintia hills while the Congress, which is the ruling party, is losing confidence in Khasi and Jaintia hills. What is your take on this?
In both the eastern region of Khasi-Jaintia hills and the western region that is Garo hills, we are strong. Last time we had 16 MLAs out of 36 in the eastern part and 13 in the western part out of 24 and combined together that was the first time the Congress managed to have 29 MLAs in a House of 60. For the first time in the history of Meghalaya, we formed a government without a regional party being part of a coalition.
How far is dissidence going to affect? It seems that the Khasi-Jaintia hills belt has been severely hit as senior MLAs are leaving the party. Garo hills is your strongest base, but you are facing a tough challenge there as well. What do you want to say on this?
Those leaders were instrumental in creating instability. So, there was a need for the party to cleanse itself. We have taken this as a privilege because the BJP was poaching MLAs - not just Congress MLAs, but Independent MLAs and MLAs from other parties such as the NCP. So it is not just the Congress. The BJP is indulging in poaching MLAs since they do not have a base here. They have made a mockery of the whole system of democracy.
The BJP now promises that if they are voted to power they would solve the deadlock as far as coal mining is concerned. Do you think that it is a full-fledged promise and is anti-environment?
The National Green Tribunal has not banned coal mining. It has banned illegal and unregulated coal mining. Now it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that every mining activity in the state is carried out in accordance with various statutory laws of the land. Taking care of the need for fulfilling those provisions of law in respect of environmental safety and health, in 2012 we came up with a notification on mine development and regulation policy. In the meantime, the ban of honourable NGT on the illegal and unregulated mining has come into force. No if anybody has to undo it that means we have already done it. We already have a whole policy in place. What is required now for the people to actually take advantage of this whole solution which is already put in place for the miners. Unregulated coal mining is suicidal for environment and anyone who is for it is definitely anti-environment.
This is a Mukul Sangma versus Conrad Sangma election. Talking about Conrad Sangma, his party NPP is gaining ground and you being the face of the ruling Congress... how do you see it?
It is not correct. The reality is that it is a fight between the Congress and the BJP along with its associates. It is as simple as that. The BJP is instrumental in driving all the other parties which are in conglomeration with the North East Democratic Alliance led by it. The NPP and the UDP are associates of NEDA. So it is simple. It is a fight between the Congress and the BJP-led coalition.
Meghalaya has a history of fractured mandates and fragile governments. Even in your last government, you had to take support of the Independents. This time around you have also seen that it is Congress versus all the regional forces. Do you have regional parties on your side? Are you looking at the numbers out of 60 seats that makes you feel that you are comfortable?
Meghalaya is one of the few states which has demonstrated the ability of coalition government. You are associated with inherent challenges when you have a coalition government. But notwithstanding that background, what we are looking at is to have a comfortable majority with full mandate expected from our beloved people. We are sure that we will come up with the required numbers for forming the government.
Meghlaya is a Christian-dominated state and Garo hills saw massive protests against beef ban. Do you feel in such conflicting interests Meghalaya will welcome all those regional parties aligning with the BJP?
You have seen what is happening in all the BJP-ruled states. Their whole agenda and their fringe elements are against people. So in Meghalaya, it is a fight between the only party which stands in the way of the BJP in opposing their agenda which is not acceptable to the nation. I must tell you one thing - the BJP has only engaged in aggressive marketing and Modi, I must say, is one of the most experts in marketing.