The Congress on Monday expressed unhappiness over the arrangement of four leaders enjoying the rank and status of chief minister in Meghalaya, dubbing it as 'relatively unusual', but defended the move citing political instability in the state.
At a media briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi also clarified that there is only one chief minister in Meghalaya. The others have been given same perks and security as the CM, but not the same decision-making power, he clarified.
"I agree this is relatively unusual. But it is a small state and has political instability. We hope their (those who have taken the decision) shoulders are broad enough to bear political cost, if any," he said.
The Congress-led government in Meghalaya resorted to a peculiar arrangement recently by elevating the rank and status of Pradesh Congress Committee president Friday Lyngdoh to that of chief minister, even as senior leader D D Lapang continues as the CM. With the elevation of Lyngdoh's status, the ruling alliance now has three leaders, apart from Lapang, who enjoy the status of chief minister.
The others are the two leaders of the United Democratic Party -- State Planning Board chairman Donkupar Roy and Meghalaya Economic Development Council chairman J D Rymbai.
Singhvi asserted that there was only one chief minister in Meghalaya and there can only be one CM as per the Constitution.
He said only the rank of CM has been given to the others for perks, emoluments and security. "They (others given the rank of CM) do not have the jurisdiction to take the decisions of a chief minister. The decision making is with the CM," he said.
Justifying the decision of the Congress-led government in the state, Singhvi said there are several states with deputy chief ministers and corporation chiefs who are given Cabinet rank.
"But it is true that it does not happen generally," a defensive Singhvi said to a volley of questions on the issue.
Asked whether having four 'CMs' in a tiny state will lead to the misusage of public money, the spokesman said, "I do not think it is a misuse as it is a political decision taken with full responsibility".
Singhvi evaded queries on whether the Meghalaya model will be replicated at the Centre or other Congress-ruled states, merely saying that it was a 'political decision' and was not taken in secret.
To a query on whether Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could be given the rank of prime minister, Singhvi shot back, "You are twisting it".
The elevation of Lyngdoh's status is seen as a move to stem the resentment in the Congress camp, particularly among some senior members, who have been denied a ministerial berth.
Lyngdoh, reportedly heading the rebel camp that comprises at least eight disgruntled Members of Legislative Assembly, had even moved the All India Congress Committee recently, seeking resolution of his group's grievances.
The 12-member council of ministers in Meghalaya is assisted by 13 parliamentary secretaries selected from the 60 legislators.