“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government under Conrad K Sangma faces the second challenge since its formation as a strong opposition gets ready for the first budget session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, which got underway on Friday. The MDA crossed its first hurdle when it got its candidate, Dr Donkupar Roy, elected as the Speaker of the state Assembly on March 12. In the House of 59, the newly formed six-party alliance led by NPP has the support of 36 MLAs. As many as 18 working days have been marked for the session as per the decision of the Business Advisory Committee. The session, which started with the customary address of governor Ganga Prasad, delivered in Hindi, will certainly witness the Opposition bench, led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, grilling the government to put it on the mat. The first-time legislators, as they have to tackle questions from veterans in the field, will definitely fill the heat. The Opposition has already prepared its strategy to keep the government on its toes and the verbal slugfest on the floor of the House will be worth watching. If Conrad Sangma and his team, particularly the green horns, could withstand the pressure from the Opposition, it will put them in good stead.
Along with the election of a new Speaker in Dr Donkupar Roy, former chief minister and the chief of the United Democratic Party (UDP), a constituent of the MDA, the government crossed another hurdle –clearing the floor test through voice vote. The question that is reverberating in the state in recent times, after the MDA assumed charge, is “Will this government last?” Scepticism will always be there when people with different political ideologies, if there is at all, form a coalition to grab power. And stability is the first casualty in case of such an alliance. Yet, there are instances of coalition government completing its full term – UPA government with 206 MPS in the House of 542 under Dr Manmohan Singh did that impossible. There is no denying that in case of a multi-party coalition government, like the one in Meghalaya, the chief minister will have to manage and accommodate the demands of MLAs and leaders of all the coalition partners and this subsequently affects governance. To keep the house in order, the new government needs to come up with a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) immediately taking into consideration concerns of all the partners. The CMP, which should be made public since it is a paper of promise to the electorate, will keep all the alliance partners in good humour, at least for some time. The earlier the government comes up with this the better for it.
The challenges before the new Govt are many and varied. Chief minister Conrad Sangma will have to demonstrate the political shrewdness, which is fundamental to a leader, to sail the MDA boat in the right direction striking a balance between the demands of the coalition partners and the priorities of his government. At the same time he needs to be tough to be able to keep the coalition afloat. Not to forget, the overall governance of Meghalaya is his sole responsibility.