How Himanta Biswa Sarma helped NPP-BJP snatch victory from jaws of defeat in Meghalaya

Efforts to scuttle the NPP-BJP’s bid to form a government in the state would have succeeded had it not been for Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP’s chief troubleshooter in the Northeast.

How Himanta Biswa Sarma helped NPP-BJP snatch victory from jaws of defeat in Meghalaya
Sarma then began to dial legislators from friendly parties as well as those in the Opposition. (Photo: Facebook/Himanta Biswa Sarma)

Conrad Sangma on Tuesday returned as the Chief Minister of Meghalaya for a second term, days after the National People’s Party (NPP) emerged as the single-largest party with 26 seats in the 60-member Assembly. However, Sangma’s return to power in partnership with the United Democratic Party (UDP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) and the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) — that took the tally of the alliance to a two-thirds majority of 45 — was almost scuttled by attempts the Congress, TMC and other regional pressure groups.

In a dramatic 72 hours after the declaration of election results in Meghalaya on March 2, the NPP almost lost its bid to form a government in the state despite having numbers on its side. After the BJP and the NPP agreed to join hands, Sangma received the backing of 2 Independent MLAs as well as the support of as many legislators from the HSPDP.

In the elections held on February 27, the NPP bagged 26 seats, the UDP 11, while the BJP, PDF and HSPDP bagged 2 seats each. All these parties had collectively formed the government under the umbrella of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance after the elections in 2018 threw up a fractured mandate much like the polls this time. With the support from 2 Independents, the tally of the MDA added up and looked comfortably poised to form a government.

However, the entire arithmetic almost came crumbling down like a pack of cards in a matter of hours. NPP leaders have alleged that the Congress and the VOPP launched a joint bid to prevent Sangma’s bid to form a government and cited the need for a Khasi chief minister in the state.

No sooner did the machinations begin, the HSPDP president announced that the announcement of support to the NPP-BJP alliance by two of its MLAs did not have the party’s backing. Protests were allegedly launched by Khasi groups including the Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC), the Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation (HITO), Hynniewtrep National Youth Movement, Ka Sur U Paidbah ka Bri U Hynniewtrep and Saindur Tipkhur-Tipkha Ieng Ehrngiew Hynniewtrep, reports claimed.

NPP leaders allege that these agitating groups even issued threats to the HSPDP and Independent MLAs who had offered support to the NPP. Properties linked to them were also attacked and the MLAs were asked to withdraw support to the NPP by Sunday morning or face the consequences.

These groups allegedly wanted the UDP with 11 MLAs to take the lead in forming the government with the backing of legislators from the PDF (2), VOPP (4), the HSDP (2) and Independents (2). The Congress (5) and the Trinamool Congress (5) led by former CM Mukul Sangma soon offered their backing to the efforts to put together a government minus the NPP and BJP.

It was at this point that Assam Chief Minister, the troubleshooter for the BJP as well as the Congress governments in the region in the past, stepped in on Saturday. As per reports, Sarma then began to dial legislators from friendly parties as well as those in the Opposition. Sangma spoke to legislators from the UDP, PDF, Congress and even TMC’s Mukul Sangma.

By late evening on Saturday, Sarma had managed to convince UDP and PDF to support the NPP-BJP combine. By Sunday afternoon, both parties had submitted letters of support bearing signatures of all their MLAs to Sangma.

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First published on: 07-03-2023 at 13:43 IST
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