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Cohabiting executives

'The idea is sure to set a bad precedent''

Meghalaya has had so many chief ministers connected in a serial power circuit in its short history that it has decided to try a parallel connection now, with four gentlemen assuming the name, style and status of the state’s chief executive. All of them are simultaneously chief ministers in real time. There is a chief minister recognised by the Constitution in Darwing Lapang, and his instinct for survival made him upgrade the deputy chief minister and state Congress president Friday Lyndoh to his own position. Two others – State Planning Board chairman Donkupar Roy and Development Council chairman J D Rymbai – already enjoyed that status. Meghalaya has a history of creative political thinking which involved tinkering with the Constitution and violation of the best democratic norms, and has led the country with some trend-setting practices of defection and fickle coalition politics. No less than 21 governments have risen and fallen in 38 years.

Lyndoh had recently turned a dissident and was in a position to threaten Lapang’s coalition government. That prompted Lapang to make the rebel also a chief minister. Executive power is with Lapang but all the perks and privileges that go with the position are available to the three others. This is a travesty of the Constitution. The price of this farce is paid by the people of the state. There are two deputy chief ministers, 12 ministers and 13 parliamentary secretaries who enjoy ministerial ranks. There are others who enjoy lucrative positions. Together they make up the entire ruling party strength.

The Congress party’s central leadership has found it hard to defend the situation. The idea degrades chief ministership and is sure to set a bad precedent for other states. Politicians rarely realise they devalue democracy and lose their own credibility when they resort to such blatant improprieties. Appeasement and continuous lowering of the bar cannot help either those who try to win or keep power through such devices. They only increase the appetite with more people demanding still more privileges. When every supporting MLA is a minister or almost a minister, the government falls. The cynicism that such conduct might breed among people is fatal for democracy.
'The idea is sure to set a bad precedent''

Meghalaya has had so many chief ministers connected in a serial power circuit in its short history that it has decided to try a parallel connection now, with four gentlemen assuming the name, style and status of the state’s chief executive. All of them are simultaneously chief ministers in real time. There is a chief minister recognised by the Constitution in Darwing Lapang, and his instinct for survival made him upgrade the deputy chief minister and state Congress president Friday Lyndoh to his own position. Two others – State Planning Board chairman Donkupar Roy and Development Council chairman J D Rymbai – already enjoyed that status. Meghalaya has a history of creative political thinking which involved tinkering with the Constitution and violation of the best democratic norms, and has led the country with some trend-setting practices of defection and fickle coalition politics. No less than 21 governments have risen and fallen in 38 years.

Lyndoh had recently turned a dissident and was in a position to threaten Lapang’s coalition government. That prompted Lapang to make the rebel also a chief minister. Executive power is with Lapang but all the perks and privileges that go with the position are available to the three others. This is a travesty of the Constitution. The price of this farce is paid by the people of the state. There are two deputy chief ministers, 12 ministers and 13 parliamentary secretaries who enjoy ministerial ranks. There are others who enjoy lucrative positions. Together they make up the entire ruling party strength.

The Congress party’s central leadership has found it hard to defend the situation. The idea degrades chief ministership and is sure to set a bad precedent for other states. Politicians rarely realise they devalue democracy and lose their own credibility when they resort to such blatant improprieties. Appeasement and continuous lowering of the bar cannot help either those who try to win or keep power through such devices. They only increase the appetite with more people demanding still more privileges. When every supporting MLA is a minister or almost a minister, the government falls. The cynicism that such conduct might breed among people is fatal for democracy.