TMC Is A Fraction Of Larger Opposition, Won't Have Any Impact In Meghalaya Polls: CM Conrad Sangma

Ahead of the crucial Meghalaya elections on February 27, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma speaks to Outlook on several issues ranging from lagging economic affairs of the state to the challenges faced by his National People's Party in state politics.

Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma

Ahead of the crucial Meghalaya elections on February 27, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma speaks to Outlook on several issues ranging from the lagging economic affairs of the state to the challenges faced by his National People's Party in state politics.

1: Do you see the lagging economy of the region as a bottleneck for the rise of demand for more autonomy from certain parts of the regions including the demand for separate Garo and Khasi land? 

The overall economy of the smaller states, as mentioned, depends on the Finance Commission recommendation, central share and Central taxes and of course to a large extent on the centrally sponsored schemes. And of course, most of the states don't have many sources of their own revenue, even the GST. Revenue is not as high as in other more populist states. So obviously it is an issue and definitely as you mentioned that the reason why a lot of demand for separate states and these things come up is that people strongly feel that we know asking for a separate state is one of the ways in which the development can come in is what the perception of the people is and. That's why they demand it. So therefore, yes, economic conditions and situations do lead to such kinds of demands among the people and yes, it's genuine because obviously, people require development. 

2: How do you plan to better the economy of the state if voted for the second term? 

Obviously, we have to increase the revenue of the state. The only way to work towards this is obviously depending on each of the resources that are there and these need to be enhanced. For states like Meghalaya, we had a large amount of revenue in terms of our non-tax revenue of royalty collection. Now that was affected because of the NGT ban. We have managed to lift it through a Supreme Court order but then the mining could not start effectively because of the scientific process that is required by the Supreme Court. So we will have to work towards ensuring that the scientific mining processes are moved faster which is happening as we speak. And we expect that as scientific mining starts in the state, the revenue will increase. We strongly feel that overall revenue in terms of its excise will be increased much more and it has gone up a lot in the last five years. Another area is the revenue from transportation. There is a scope for increasing the revenue and of course, overall revenue in terms of GST will go up once economic activities go up. So tourism will be an important sector. If more activities take place in tourism, if more people will come into the tax gamut, the more the GST would go up. So these are the few areas in which we can focus for growth. Of course, there are many more sectors. 

3. What are the challenges ahead of you post TMC’s entry into state politics with a bunch of prominent political leaders from Congress?

We have always maintained that in politics you can never take things for granted. And obviously, for us, every opponent is a strong opponent. So yes, we will definitely work hard to ensure that we are able to fight the TMC and not take them lightly. But having said that, the TMC is a fraction of the Congress and they were once a strong opposition. But then the Congress has broken down into several parts. TMC is one fraction of the larger opposition which was the Congress. People also obviously notice this and people realize that they need to be with the government with a party which is likely to form the government and hence the support for the opposition parties goes down. 

TMC also is a party that does not have that kind of appeal in the state of Meghalaya and hence it will not be so simple to sell the brand of TMC in our state. TMC is a fraction of the larger opposition and TMC is a very new party and a party whose ideology is not something that is easily acceptable in the state of Meghalaya. So hence it's a broken and fractured opposition. 

4: Has the border deal with Assam gone against the aspirations of the people of Meghalaya and can it hamper the party's vote bank in this election? 

No. On the contrary, the MoU and the entire border agreement that we have is something that the people of the state are extremely happy about and finally, the people are feeling that there is a government and a party that is serious about resolving this long-pending issue. So there's confidence in people's minds. If you actually go to Ground Zero and meet the people of those areas, where we have resolved this issue, you will find that they are extremely happy. And those disputed areas, that we have not resolved yet and fall in the second phase of the resolution, the people are extremely hopeful about it. Now there are one or two people who have spoken about it in different ways . There will always be people who would be criticizing us but that should not take away from our goal. There is never a perfect solution but we have got the best possible solution. 

5. There are talks about your incumbent government behind the denial of permission to Narendra Modi to hold an election rally. How confident are you about your own campaign this time and about mass support since you are fighting alone? 

Giving permission to hold an election rally is not something I am authorized to do. It is the Election Commission and the district administration that decide on that. This allegation that I have tried to stop the rally is baseless and I deny it. I was also denied permission for many of my rallies. I am very confident about the way the NPP’s campaign is going. We are seeing huge footfalls in every election rally. We are trying to reach out to as many people as we can. So we don’t need to stop others from campaigning in order to strengthen our vote base. 

6. The BJP withdrew support from your MDA  government. How likely is it to go for a post-poll alliance this time with the same party? Or are you in talks with like-minded regional parties this time?

Right now I am not in talks with any political party --- be it the regional parties or the national parties. Whatever decision we will take will be after the results are out. We are not denying any alliance with any party. We will go for parties which share the same ideology as the NPP.