Out for the count
Many have been concerned about the disconnect between India’s North-eastern states and the rest of the country. But the action of Meghalaya Governor S.S. Sidhu on Monday may want them to rethink this ‘disconnect’ as being helpful insulation from the proverbial ‘politics of the Gangetic plains’. With the Meghalaya elections throwing up no majority, Mr Sidhu invited the party with the largest tally of seats to form a government. Now, the Congress under D.D. Lapang may have won 25 of the 59 seats in the March 3 polls, but the coalition of the newly-formed Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) had paraded 30 legislators before the Governor earlier that day. The numbers were on the table and it was hoped that the Governor would offer the MPA the hobby-horse to sit on.
It turns out that Mr Sidhu overlooked the ‘coalition count’ and has opted for the ‘largest party’ logic. That decision now makes the Governor seem biased — and not only to Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma and his allies including MPA chief D.R. Donkupar Roy. What has happened in Shillong would be familiar to those who remember what happened in Bihar over the years. NDA leader Nitish Kumar was invited by Governor V.C. Pande in 2000 to form a government despite trailing the RJD by two votes in the Assembly polls as Mr Kumar had trotted out 24 names from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Soren) in additional to the 122 MLAs from the NDA. In 2006, the Supreme Court had to intervene when Governor Buta Singh recommended President’s Rule after reportedly ‘preventing’ the NDA, which had cobbled up a majority figure, from forming a government.
Governor Sidhu should be reminded of the apex court’s 2006 observation: “If a political party with the support of other political parties or other MLAs stakes claim to form a government...the Governor cannot refuse formation of government and override the majority claim”. The MPA has promised to challenge Mr Lapang on the assembly floor in ten days’ time. Then, as in the Bihar case, there’s the Supreme Court.