UDP’S blatant hypocrisy
By Albert Thyrniang
Over two weeks ago the United Democratic Party (UDP), the ‘indispensible’ally of the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) coalition demanded the ouster of James Sangma as Power Minister amidst the MeECL crisis. Initially UDP’s seven MLAs, of whom three are ministers presumed that the letter to the Chief Minister signed by Jemino Mawthoh baying for the ‘under-fire’ minister’s blood was thought to be the sole adventure of their party’s general secretary. Even the party president who is also the Speaker of the Assembly, Metbah Lyngdoh pleaded ignorance of his party’s stance. When it became clear that it was the party bigwigs’ decision, the demand for removal of the Chief Minister’s brother from the power department has gained momentum. The UDP could well ensure James Sangma lose another significant responsibility after the Power Ministry was rudely ‘snatched’ away from the same coalition partner.
The public should see and direct all fingers at the blatant hypocrisy of the UDP. Following allegations of massive illegality in coal mining and transportation the biggest regional party got its way in banishing the then Home Minister who happened to be the same person, James Sangma. The party was allotted the Ministry of Home in the person of Lahkmen Rymbui in addition to him being the Education Minister. Now, James Sangma was relieved of his duty because he was unable to prevent rat hole (illegal) coal mining and transportation of the black diamond by hundreds of trucks. It was expected that the new minister would ensure illegal coal activities would be a thing of the past. However, what happened under Sangma’s charge continued to happen also under Rymbui’s supervision. Underground coal business has been taking place unabated.
The Rymbai incident occurred. .Six miners were killed in an illegal mining site in East Jaintia Hills. Trucks allegedly carrying fresh coal continue to ply out of the state even via the state capital’s main thoroughfares. The Chief Minister himself admitted to illegal mining activities in the state during Rymbui’s current tenure. When the BJP demanded Rymbui’s resignation over the Rymbai incident not only did the Home Minster refuse to pay heed but eulogised himself a ‘warrior’ who embraces responsibilities and challenges. His party also came to his defence. So here is the patent hypocrisy of the UDP. It blames NPP’s James Sangma for his incompetence as Power Minister but it does not accept the failures of their own minister in the crucial Home Department. The UDP is practicing the politics of convenience.
Rymbui’s reign is a mark of deterioration of law and order. The Ichamati clash took place in which one Khasi Students’ Union member was killed. A non-tribal was stabbed shortly after the border imbroglio. The situation in the border segment is still volatile. The Umoid attack occurred in which eight non-tribals were assaulted killing one of them. The latest is the Golf Link assault case in which three youths from Wahkaji were beaten up, one among whom succumbed to his injuries in NEIGRIHMS. The police is still clueless on the March 21 incident. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) had to be set up to probe the case dubbed as ‘difficult’. The inability of the police for a breakthrough has led NGOs and media users to jump to all sorts of conclusions, including a communal angle. A law and order fallout could follow. The KSU has even threatened to take law into its own hands if the police let the citizens down. The responsibilities have to rest on the Home Minster’s shoulders for the worsening law and order situation in the state. While the UDP is harsh on James Sangma why is it is not using the same yardstick for its own minister?
The immediate reactions in social media to the Golf Links incident was that the three youth were assaulted by non-tribals. Besides the police position that it was a drunken brawl the communal claims do not add up. Initially there were no wide condemnations from the Shillong based pressure groups. In fact there were few reactions. The reason might have been that the three boys are not from Shillong. They are from a 140 km (5 hours) village known only in relation to uranium deposit/mining. But the real reason could have been that probably it was known in inner circles that the culprits are not non-tribals. The circumstances seem to support that the perpetrators are locals. One also wonders as to why no rally or protest to condemn the incident has been organised in the state capital. Tomorrow if residents from Jaintia Hills, Ri Bhoi, Garo Hills etc are assaulted and killed in Shillong should protests be held only in Nongpoh, Jowai, Tura etc? What is in the mind of these pressure groups?
Our attention goes back to the UDP-NPP’s struggle for ‘Power’, at the heart of which is the MeECL saga. Charles de Gaulle was supposed to have stated, “I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” The French President who was a World War I and II army officer in the fight against Nazi and who later helped to re-establish democracy in France and rewrite the Constitution can inspire us to say that MeECL is too serious a matter to be left to the petty politicking of the NPP-UDP. The Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) affects the whole state. Its sick condition for a long period of time has resulted in load shedding for many years thereby affecting the general public immensely. The Chief Minister has blamed the previous Congress governments for the present ‘white elephant’ status of MeECL which is supposed to be one of the biggest assets of the state. The Power Minister has advised his UDP critics to direct their guns to his predecessors. Without vouching for this sort of blame game, for the job of a government is to deliver not to blame past regimes, to be fair to the government, MeECL’s large scale disorder is in fact inherited. The UDP has chosen to target the present minister for the sorry state of affairs.
Why should we allow the whims and fancies of the UDP to determine the future of MeECL? Why should Meghalayans watch the UDP playing politics over the state electricity corporation? Without beating around the bush let us ask the UDP if it would be able to resolve the crises in the MeECL if one of their MLAs/ministers is entrusted with the Power Department. Will the load shedding stop? Will MeECL be set right within a time frame? Will MeECL be similar to illegal coal activities? If the UDP think–tank has suggestions to improve MeECL what prevents it from presenting them to the Power Minister or the government? Has the same been done? If not what authority does UDP possess to take a moral high ground?
Assembly elections are not far off. UDP wants the electorate to think the failures of the present government are not theirs. As elucidated by other writers in this page coalition government is a sailing ship UDP has been a key sailor in the MDA ship. If the sail is successful all the sailors take the credit. If the sail fails all the sailors take the blame. If UDP feels it can no longer be part of the team of sailors, the best thing is to jump out of the ship, swim to safety or arrange for an alternative ship to successfully sail to the shore. The intentional refusal to sail or sink together is a virtue that is not tenable.
The UDP is a major ally in the MDA government. Without it the government collapses. The NPP knows it. When the BJP was throwing allegations of corruption in the ADCs and the government ‘facilitating’ illegal coal mining and transportation, the NPP’s top brass including Chief Minster, Conrad Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister, Prestone Tynsong could afford to order the saffron party to get out of the coalition. But obviously the NPP leadership can’t give marching orders to the UDP. But does it mean the UDP should take advantage of its strength? Should the ‘Drum’ party blackmail the hapless MDA government?
The 1997 founded party must be intending to tell the people of Meghalaya that it is not involved in the mess in MeECL. The present antics of the Khasi-Jaintia Hills centric political entity must be a ploy to improve is tally (8) in the 2023 elections. We may well see a new Power Minister assuming office but the public should see through the unconcealed hypocrisy of the UDP.
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