Government wins Meghalaya floor test by one vote, uncertainty continues (Lead)

March 17th, 2009 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Shillong, March 17 (IANS) Amid high political drama, the ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) scraped through a crucial floor test Tuesday with Speaker Bindo Lanong breaking the tie by voting for the government.
After the speaker ordered a vote to decide the fate of the government, 27 legislators each voted for and against the government after which Lanong cast his ballot to declare that the MPA government had won the trial of strength by one vote.

The floor test was marred by a blazing controversy following a midnight decision by the speaker to place five legislators under interim suspension for withdrawing support to the MPA.

The five - former ministers Advisor Pariong and Paul Lyngdoh, deputy speaker Sanbar Shullai, and two independent MLAs Ismail Marak and Limison Sangma - were barred from entering the house until further orders by the speaker in a ruling late Monday.

But four of the legislators, barring Pariong, defied the speaker’s ruling and entered the house Tuesday as the assembly met to decide the floor test.

There was pandemonium soon after the four legislators, particularly Paul Lyngdoh, challenged the speaker’s ruling to suspend them.

“The move to suspend is simply unconstitutional and we should be allowed to vote,” Lyngdoh said.

The house was adjourned for some time after which the speaker ordered the vote to be taken up.

“We proved the majority in the house,” a smiling Chief Minister Donkupar Roy told journalists.

But the Congress legislators led by former chief minister D.D. Lapang trooped to the Raj Bhawan to meet Governor R.S. Mooshahary and seek imposition of president’s rule.

“The role of the speaker was nothing but unconstitutional and so we sought dismissal of the government and asked him to impose president’s rule for the time being,” Lapang said.

The suspended legislators are also moving court and said they would approach the Supreme Court if required.

The strength of the MPA has gone down to 28 in the 60-member legislature following switching of loyalties by the five legislators.

Despite the victory of the MPA, political uncertainty would continue to haunt Meghalaya, known for its hop-skip-and-jump politics with legislators switching loyalties at the drop of a hat.

After the March 2008 assembly elections, Lapang was sworn-in as chief minister of a Congress-led coalition government. But he resigned 10 days later ahead of a scheduled trust vote, having failed to muster majority support.

Political instability is the hallmark in Meghalaya - the state has seen six different governments with varied combinations of political parties, resulting in four chief ministers in a span of five years between 1998 and 2003.

There have been just two occasions since Meghalaya attained statehood in 1972 when a chief minister has been able to complete a full five-year term.

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