Lapang seeks bigger ministry in Meghalaya

Shillong, March 6 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang has sought a bigger council of ministers in the state in order to prevent instability.

‘In a small and sensitive state like Meghalaya where the total number of assembly members is only 60 and coalition governments have been in vogue for the past three decades, it has become very difficult to accommodate the aspirations of various coalition partners, resulting in instability,’ he said in a memorandum submitted to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Friday night.

‘It would be appropriate that the size of council of ministers may be increased by necessary amendment of the Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2003,’ Lapang, who is also the chairman of the North East Congress Coordination Committee, added.

Under the act, the size of the ministry cannot exceed 15 percent of the number of seats in the legislature. An exception was made for Goa, Sikkim, Mizoram – all which with 40-member legislatures – where a maximum of 12 ministers were allowed.

Lapang’s demand for an increase of the council of ministers’ strength comes soon after state Congress unit chief Friday Lyngdoh was elevated to the status and rank of a chief minister after he, along with seven other Congress legislators, met senior party leaders in New Delhi to demand ministerial berths.

Instability marks politics in Meghalaya – the state has already seen three governments since the March 2008 elections, a situation characteristic of the mountainous northeastern state known for legislators switching loyalties at the drop of a hat.

After the March 2008 assembly elections, Lapang was sworn in chief minister of a Congress-led coalition government although he resigned 10 days later ahead of a scheduled trust vote, having failed to muster majority support.

Soon after, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) managed a deal with United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Donkupar Roy and formed the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) led government, which barely lasted 11 months. President’s rule was imposed in March 2009 following mounting political uncertainty after five legislators, supporting the MPA, announced their decision to back the Congress.

After two months of central rule, Lapang was sworn in chief minister of the Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) coalition government with the UDP now backing it.

In the present 60-member legislature, the Congress has 28 legislators and enjoys the support of 10 UDP members. The NCP, the main opposition, has 15 legislators.

Meghalaya has seen nine different governments with varied combinations of political parties, resulting in eight chief ministers between 1998 and 2009. There were just two occasions when a chief minister was able to complete the full five-year term since Meghalaya attained statehood in 1972.

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