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Cong cornered in Meghalaya

In the new conglomeration, named Meghalaya Progressive Alliance, the Nationalist Congress Party has replaced the Congress as the party with most seats in the 60-member House, reports Rahul Karmakar.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Karmakar, Guwahati
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2008 01:29 AM IST

One alliance has given way to another in the politically volatile Meghalaya. In the new conglomeration, named Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA), the Nationalist Congress Party has replaced the Congress as the party with most seats in the 60-member House. The alliance is all set to form the government by Monday.

The non-Congress MPA has the United Democratic Party (UDP) as the NCP’s regional allies besides the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM). All three were allies in the outgoing Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government.

The NCP won 14 seats and the UDP 11 in the elections held on March 3. The HSPDP won two and the KHNAM one. With the lone BJP legislator and four Independents, including Manas Chaudhuri, editor of ‘The Shillong Times’ — their total strength came to 33, more than sufficient in the Assembly with an effective strength of 59. Election in one seat was postponed following the death of the Congress candidate.

The Congress, though, was the single largest party with 25 seats. “We are still exploring possibilities to form the government,” said PCC president Onward L. Nongtdu, adding that outgoing chief minister D.D. Lapang was named Congress Legislature Party chief. “The question of reviving the alliance with the Congress did not arise,” UDP spokesman Bindo Lanong told Hindustan Times from Shillong. The Congress had major differences with the UDP and other allies, mainly on uranium mining and handing over six power projects to private players.

Both contenders have staked claim before Governor S.S. Sidhu. The UDP-NCP combine paraded 31 MLAs before the Sidhu while Lapang met him separately to stake claim.

According to NCP general secretary Purno Agitok Sangma, the chief architect of the non-Congress alliance, a consensus was arrived at to name UDP president Donkupar Roy as the MPA chief minister. HSPDP president Hopingstone Lyngdoh is expected to be the deputy chief minister.

Roy, who represents the limestone-rich Shella constituency, was confident of having a “cementing influence” on the alliance. “People in Meghalaya voted for a change and we hope to provide that change with good governance,” he said.

NCP state unit chief WR Kharlukhi hinted at the party playing second fiddle to the regional allies “in the greater interest of the state”.

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