Meghalaya, the epitome of political instability, is staring at yet another leadership change.
Chief Minister DD Lapang, who assumed office twice since the March 2008 Assembly election yielded a hung assembly, has admitted to having lost majority within the Congress Legislature Party (CLP). His nemesis this time is Deputy CM Mukul Sangma.
With 28 legislators, the Congress heads the Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) government. Its partners in the 60-member House are the regional United Democratic Party (UDP-10), Hill State Peoples' Democratic Party (2), Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM-1) and three Independents.
Opposition NCP has 15 legislators and one Independent.
"There is no denying that Mukul enjoys the majority, but resolving the issue (change of guards) is up to the High Command," Lapang said from New Delhi. "As a disciplined Congress man I will abide by my party's directives. I am prepared to step down for the sake of the party unity."
Lapang rushed to New Delhi on Sunday, a day after 21 Congress MLAs led by Sangma took flight to meet AICC President Sonia Gandhi. "We have chosen Sangma unanimously as the new leader," a senior Meghalaya PCC leader said from Shillong.
Sangma - he is perceived to be a Lapang loyalist - could not be contacted, but an aide said he was set to be the new CM. If he takes charge, Meghalaya will have the fourth government since March 2008.
The problem within the Congress had to do with its ruling allies in the MUA. The dissidents wanted Lapang to drop certain non-Congress and Independent legislators from the ministry and replace them with Congress MLAs.
Lapang resisted the move arguing he could not remove 'friends' who had helped the Congress return to power last year. At least four non-Congress legislators - KHNAM's Paul Lyngdoh, UDP's Ampareen Lyngdoh (she joined Congress later) and two Independents, Lemison Sangma and Ismail Marak - broke away from the NCP-backed Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) government under the leadership of Donkupar Roy and helped Lapang form MUA.
Lapang was sworn in as CM soon after the 2008 Assembly elections but remained in power for just 10 days as he failed to prove his majority. Backed by NCP, Roy's UDP led the MPA and ruled for a year before the four broke away.
All four were rewarded with Cabinet berth while only six of 28 Congress MLAs including Lapang found place in the 12-member ministry. Two other ministers were taken in from UDP, which ditched the NCP to be with the Congress.