The National People’s Party (NPP) may have claimed that the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) is still intact, but the bickering among the partners tells a different story altogether. And this infighting may give the Trinamool Congress (TMC) an edge in the eastern Indian state that goes to polls on February 27.
The NPP leads the current MDA government in Meghalaya, the other partners being the BJP, the UDP, and the PDP. The scam-riddled government is on a sticky wicket and most of the bickering within the coalition appears to be about finding a fall guy for the scams and all-round mismanagement.
NPP’s spat with UDP
Recently, the United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate from Mawlai constituency, Process T Sawkmie, blamed the NPP squarely for the “misrule,” prompting the other party to state that the statement was “unfortunate” because the UDP has Cabinet ministers in the NPP-led government.
“PT Sawkmie’s statement against our party is very unfortunate because in this MDA government, we have a home minister, water resources minister, social welfare and excise minister, and Speaker from UDP. Till today, we are in a coalition,” NPP spokesperson Bajop Pyngrope pointed out.
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Speculations have been rife about the MDA breaking up ahead of the polls but the NPP has denied all such claims. Last month, NPP spokesman Marcuise Marak had asserted that “no matter what strategy the Opposition TMC comes up with, the bond will not break.” He claimed that all the parties in the alliance had a good experience of working with the NPP and they share a good bond.
UDP aims for CM’s chair
However, the UDP, the second largest constituent of the MDA coalition with eight incumbent MLAs, seems to think otherwise. It already seems to be eyeing a bigger pie this time, with UDP general secretary Jemino Mawthoh saying on Tuesday (February 7) that if the party gets “more seats this time, the chief minister will be from our party.” Mawthoh’s comment came days after Sawkmie alleged mistreatment of its ministers by NPP.
On Tuesday, UDP working president Paul Lyngdoh sounded non-committal about having a post-poll an alliance with the BJP and the NPP. Instead, he said the UDP would try to form the government on its own. Lyngdoh made the comment while filing his nomination from West Shillong constituency.
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According to Mawthoh, “The national parties are disintegrating, which is a good sign for us.” He claimed people are neither accepting the NPP nor the TMC, but are looking at UDP as an alternative.
BJP targets NPP
On the other hand, the NPP has been facing a barrage of criticism from the BJP as well, prompting Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma of the NPP to retaliate on Tuesday. He called it a “slanderous campaign” and said the saffron party had “no future” in Meghalaya. He claimed the BJP will not win more than two seats.
“BJP leaders are saying PM Kisan has been renamed as FOCUS and FOCUS+, which is not correct. FOCUS scheme is a flagship programme launched by the NPP-led MDA government to ensure financial assistance to farmers and producer groups who were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both programmes are unique to the state,” he reportedly said at a poll rally.
The bickering among the MDA allies has given the TMC a further edge, with the corruption-riddled MDA already facing strong anti-incumbency factors. Led by former CM Mukul Sangma (when he was with the Congress), the TMC has upped the ante against the MDA government.
TMC highlights scams
TMC candidate from South Tura, Richard Marak, recently slammed the MDA government for having no performance record to show. He added the party was only busy countering what the TMC was doing.
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Opposition Leader in the Assembly, Mukul Sangma, too, slammed the MDA government on Tuesday for its alleged failures and scams. He said his party had managed to gain popularity within a short time because the people were thirsty for change. Mukul Sangma joined the TMC with 11 other Congress MLAs in 2021.
The NPP, on its part, has been suggesting that the TMC leaders plan to desert the party after the polls and join the BJP. Conrad had “warned” TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee last month that “many leaders from different political parties joined the TMC but the word in the market is that most of these leaders plan to leave the party after the elections.”
(With agency inputs)