Meghalaya to come under president’s rule (Lead)

March 18th, 2009 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi/Shillong, March 18 (IANS) Citing a “constitutional breakdown”, the central government Wednesday decided to have president’s rule in Meghalaya, a day after the state government barely survived a trust vote with the help of the assembly speaker.
“The cabinet received a report from the (Meghalaya) governor on the events yesterday (Tuesday, during the trust vote). He has stated that there’s a breakdown in the constitutional machinery and has recommended president’s rule. The report has been accepted and a recommendation made to the president,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in New Delhi.

He was briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The decision immediately came under fire from the ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) government with former Lok Sabha speaker and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Purno A. Sangma threatening to challenge it in the Supreme Court.

“The decision to impose president’s rule is unprecedented and unconstitutional. After the MPA government won the trust vote on the floor of the house, there was no constitutional crisis and hence the decision is very sad,” Sangma told IANS.

“We shall challenge the decision in the Supreme Court Thursday.”

“It is nothing but a murder of democracy by the Congress,” Chief Minister Donkupar Roy said.

In New Delhi, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad also opposed the decision to have president’s rule in the state.

Amid high political drama in Shillong Tuesday, the MPA scraped through a crucial floor test 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 controversy following a midnight decision by the speaker to place five legislators under interim suspension for withdrawing support to the MPA.

The speaker also barred the five - former ministers Advisor Pariong and Paul Lyngdoh, deputy speaker Sanbar Shullai, and two independent MLAs Ismail Marak and Limison Sangma - from entering the house until further orders.

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.

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

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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