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BJP backed Conrad Sangma faces first challenge before Meghalaya oath

Shillong: Conrad Sangma, chief of the National People’s Party (NPP), will swear-in as the new chief minister of Meghalaya on Tuesday.

40-year-old Conard Sangma will be heading a five-party coalition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the northeastern state.

BJP national president Amit Shah and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh are expected to attend the oath ceremony in state capital Shillong.

Minutes after Conard Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, picked up his invite from Meghalaya’s Raj Bhavan on Sunday to take oath on Tuesday, he had admitted that it wasn’t going to be easy running a coalition government.

“It is never easy,” NDTV quoted Conard Sangma as saying, but said he hoped that the coalition led by his NPP would deliver on its mandate. Even he, however, would not have seen his first challenge appear less than 24 hours later.

The Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) – one of the coalition partners – has threatened to boycott Conard Sangma’s swearing-in ceremony.

On Monday, Ardent Basaiawmoit, president of the HSPDP objected to Conard Sangma, a Lok Sabha member, being named to be the alliance’s chief minister, without consulting all constituents.

Conrad Sangma’s NPP has won 19 seats in the recently concluded assembly elections and has the support of six legislators from the United Democratic Party (UDP), four from People’s Democratic Front (PDF), and two each from the HSPDP and the BJP, besides an Independent lawmaker Samuel Sangma.

Ardent Basaiawmoit said there was no need for the BJP to be part of the coalition when Meghalaya’s regional parties had the numbers to form the government on their own in the state.

“Our stand right from before the election was to have a non-Congress non-BJP government. We now see there is a possibility to have such a government where the NPP-led coalition could have easily been formed with 32 MLAs,” news agency PTI quoted Basaiawmoit as saying.

Basaiawmoit also questioned the choice of Conard Sangma as the next chief minister when even the NPP had projected another leader, Prestone Tynsong, as the party’s presumptive chief minister.

He later led his party leaders to the residence of United Democratic Party president Donkupar Roy expressing “disappointment and disagreement” to the proposal made by the UDP that Conrad Sangma should be the CM.

“This decision was taken unilaterally by the UDP and without consulting us. It is the job of the alliance to decide who should lead the government,” he said.

No party won a majority in Meghalaya, but the Congress emerged as the largest party winning 21 out of 59 assembly seats that went to polls and the results were declared on Saturday. But the party’s effective strength is 20 since outgoing chief minister Mukul Sangma had won from two seats. Since polling on one seat was cancelled due to the death of a candidate, Conrad Sangma for now only needs 30 members for a majority with the current strength of the House at 59. His coalition has 34.

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