Mukul, Hek’s Kolkata trip fuels speculations

SHILLONG, Sep 21: The anticipated tectonic changes in Meghalaya’s political spectrum is poised to affect not just Congress but also parties like BJP. While Congress is facing a spectre of vertical split, BJP which has much lesser presence in the state too is facing internal fissures over ouster of AL Hek from cabinet.
Indications are that Hek is not sitting tight after his was eased out of the cabinet. It seems he too, like Mukul Sangma, is working behind the scene to explore his political options, including quitting the saffron party.
Incidentally, by some coincidence, both Mukul and Hek are in Kolkata today fuelling speculations in political circles here about their possible political somersault. According to an unconfirmed report, there was some dialogue between them with Trinamool Congress leadership. Attempts to confirm this however proved futile, although their visit to Kolkata is confirmed by close aides of the duo.
Close to two months after Sanbor Shullai was sworn in as Cabinet minister quite unexpectedly replacing Hek, who was unceremoniously removed from the Cabinet, the BJP’s dissident group is now blaming Chief Minister for driving a wedge and dividing the saffron party. It seems the divide is clear: It’s Hek versus Conrad-Sanbor-Mawrie combine.
Political observers are of the opinion that Conrad Sangma played a masterstroke by dropping an ambitious Hek and making peace with state BJP president Ernest Mawrie — a vocal critic of corruption under MDA regime — effectively killing two birds with one stone.
Mawrie, who had stood up against alleged corruption in the MDA Government, is now at peace with the CM, whereas Hek, who had fancied himself as eligible to occupy the hot chair of CM, and had openly spoken against the CM and the NPP on some occasions, was silenced by Conrad issuing a veiled warning to those wishing to go against him.
Observers also feel that the move by the CM also effectively sealed Hek’s fate at a time when he was nurturing hopes of taking over as the State BJP president.
Political strategists also believe that Shullai’s recent induction into the Cabinet was due to his loyalty with Conrad Sangma and his sibling, James. Shullai was the lone MLA to back James Sangma when most of the MDA partners including Hek had risen in unison to demand his removal from the Home portfolio. Shullai singlehandedly led the campaign against Mawrie when the latter went all out against corruption in the ruling government.
It was not, therefore, surprising that BJP National Vice President and Meghalaya in-charge M. Chuba Ao stated that the central leaders were not aware of the Cabinet reshuffle in Meghalaya and added that the decision was the prerogative of the Chief Minister.
Disgruntled BJP leaders claim that Shullai’s induction into the Cabinet was not due to Mawrie’s letter to the CM but had more to do with the CM’s settling scores with Hek as also his personal comfort level with Shullai.
The BJP leaders also claim that the party had no role in the Cabinet reshuffle since the central leadership had given clear instruction to the State unit to work with Conrad Sangma.
Following the reshuffle, a satisfied Shullai camp has gone all quiet while agony seems to be growing in the Hek camp on the question of their future as was evident during Union Home Minister, Amit Shah’s visit to the state in July, when the BJP karyakartas and senior leaders backing Hek, were completely sidelined.
The central government had also turned down Hek’s plea for appointment of a local Vice Chancellor for NEHU, a move that many see as evidence of Hek being sidelined by Delhi.
As it appears, Hek’s political future rests on his decision to either continue with the BJP and work under Mawrie or join the camp of any other national party.
On the issue of the BJP’s future in Meghalaya, the party is evidently in disarray making the party prospects at the next hustings bleak.

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