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The Rediff Election Interview/F A Khonglam
February 20, 2003
Whatever else happens in the election to the 60-member Meghalaya state assembly on February 26, Flinder Anderson Khonglam, has already gone down in history as the first Independent MLA to become chief minister of a state.
The medical practitioner from Cherrapunjee has been in electoral politics since 1983. After falling out with the Nationalist Congress Party, Khonglam is now contesting as a candidate from the Hill State People's Democratic Party.
In a frank interview to G Vinayak in Shillong, the outgoing chief minister said the NCP would be wiped out from the state.
What went wrong between you and the NCP?
NCP leaders including P A Sangma and Robert Kharshiing (the party's state president) wanted me to arrange money for their party by using the office of chief minister. When I refused to do so, they started spreading rumours against me.
But the NCP made you chief minister...
Who says so? It was I who saved P A Sangma and the NCP from extinction in Meghalaya. I came to their rescue by arranging the support of the Congress and other regional parties after the earlier government collapsed. I did them a favour, not the other way round.
You won as an independent from Cherrapunjee last time. This time you have opted to be a candidate for the HSPDP, a regional party. Why this change?
The HSPDP requested me to stand on their symbol and my supporters agreed, so I opted to fight the elections on an HSPDP ticket.
No party, be it regional or national, seems to get a clear majority in Meghalaya. Why does it happen?
Politics in Meghalaya is very localised in nature. People mostly look at the candidates rather than their parties. Personal rapport plays an important part. That is why we get fragmented results.
Do you agree that good governance suffers as a result?
No, I don't agree. Look at my tenure. Despite being a fragile coalition government, I was firm in dealing with insurgency and other law and order issues. I maintained peace throughout the state despite so many constraints. It does not matter how many MLAs you have with you. As an administrator, you have to be firm irrespective of the circumstances.
Will the elections this time bring in a stable government?
Stable or not, one thing is sure -- no single party will get the required majority to form a government on its own. It will again be a coalition government. In fact, I will say that no party can hope to get more than 10 to 12 seats.
So who will form the government? And who will become chief minister?
That depends on how the post-poll scenario works out. But one thing is sure -- the NCP and P A Sangma will be wiped out of Meghalaya. As for who will become chief minister, in Meghalaya, if I as an Independent could become chief minister, anyone can aspire for the top post. Design: Dominic Xavier