MDA blinks, calls VPP for parley

SHILLONG, May 25: After putting its foot down on the burning issue of the roster system and the demand from the Voice of the People Party (VPP) for a review of the Meghalaya State Reservation Policy, 1972, the state government on Thursday softened its stand and offered the olive branch to VPP president, Ardent Basaiawmoit requesting him to come to the negotiation table.
“We request Basaiawmoit representing the VPP to please come to the negotiation table to let us discuss this matter,” Cabinet minister and MDA spokesperson, Ampareen Lyngdoh said.
Making it clear that she cannot promise Basaiawmoit anything before understanding what he wants, she said: “If he stops this hunger strike it will be good for everyone and we can discuss this matter and see how best we can get beyond this without affecting any community.”
Meghalaya has three major communities and the government would like to safeguard everyone’s interest, she added.
Lyngdoh said she is concerned about Basaiawmoit’s health after his hunger strike entered the third day.
“I have been asking the doctors to keep me posted about his condition,” she said, insisting none in the government want an MLA to undergo fasting.
“I really do not want to talk about his agenda because I have not seen a copy of it,” she added.
Lyngdoh also said the committee on the roster she chairs will meet very soon and invite all political parties and other stakeholders to discuss the matter.
Recalling that Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma had himself invited all the political parties concerned to a meeting earlier, she said: “Why Bah Ardent did not attend that meeting is unclear to me but we would like to see this problem sorted out. We all have to remember that this is in the common interest of all communities living within Meghalaya.”
She sought more time for the government to understand the grievances and find a way forward. “It is important for all of us to be on the same page,” she said, also referring to the VPP’s demand for a review of the reservation policy.
“The very fact that we have had a consultation with the political parties not very long ago is an indicator that we are seeking opinions. We need to find out whether these proposals are feasible, fair and acceptable to all since we do not want the situation to deteriorate further,” Lyngdoh said.
She said the government is waiting for the communication to be clear.
“If at all the policy has to be reviewed, there has to be a mandate and a reason. As of today, the only suggestion being put forward to our government is that the reservation policy should have a guideline, which is the roster,” she said.
“You may agree or disagree with the roster proposal but if you do not communicate in black and white, what you want to say it is very difficult for us to know and act on,” she added.
Meanwhile, the VPP appreciated the acceptance of NPP state president, W.R. Kharlukhi of its challenge to prove that the demand for reworking the ratio of reservation according to the population structure is illogical and wrong.
In a statement, the VPP appealed to any neutral institution or agency to organise an open debate between its spokesperson Batskhem Myrboh and Kharlukhi soon.

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