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Cong and rivals stake claim

The race for power intensifies with both Congress and a newly formed combine of the UDP and NCP staking claim.
PTI | By Rituraj Borthakur, Shillong
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2008 06:42 PM IST

The race for power in Meghalaya intensified on Saturday with both Congress and a newly formed combine of
the UDP and NCP staking claim to form the next government.

The UDP-NCP combine paraded 31 newly elected MLAs of the 60-member Assembly before Governor SS Sidhu to press their claim to form the new government.

Chief Minister DD Lapang separately met the Governor to stake claim to form a Congress-led government. The Congress has emerged as the single largest party with 25 seats.

Faced with the two claims, the Governor may announce his decision by Monday, Raj Bhavan sources said. "I will take a decision in the larger interest of the state and to provide a stable government. At the same time it has to be ensured that there is no horse-trading," Sidhu said.

While admitting that the MPA had listed 31 elected members in its support, Sidhu confirmed that the Congress too claimed to have support of some independents.

He, however, refused to divulge the exact list of supporters claimed by the Congress. Lapang told reporters after being elected Congress legislature party leader that "We are the single largest party, and as per norms we should be invited to form the government".

Asked how the party would get to the magic number of 31, Lapang, said, "We are looking for friends. We are confident of getting them, and we will prove our majority on the floor of the house."

He, however, refused to divulge the names of the 'friends' the Congress was communicating for support. The NCP, which emerged as the second largest party with 14 seats, has combined with the 11-member United Democratic Party, a former ally of Congress, two members of the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) and the lone members of Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) and the BJP to form the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) to support its claim.

After meeting the Governor, UDP president Donkupar Roy, who has been projected by the MPA as the chief ministerial candidate, said of the five independents, they have already received the support of two independents from Garo hills and two others have expressed willingness to join them.

The MPA has already formulated a common minimum programme, promising to allot ministerial berths to the two members of the HSPDP (including one of deputy chief minister), one to KHNAM, while the rest would be shared between the UDP and NCP.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP General Secretary Purno A Sangma, who is arriving here from Tura shortly, is unlikely to be in the government.

"We have pledged to give a stable government for five years, and all the members have signed an agreement to this effect," Roy said, adding the Governor, during their meeting, expressed fears of horse-trading. The MPA would meet again in the evening after Sangma arrives to sort out other details and formalise the tie-up.

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