Shillong: Meghalaya appears to be heading for its fourth government in a little over two years, with senior Congress leader Mukul M Sangma likely to take over the mantle from beleaguered Chief Minister DD Lapang.
Meghalaya has already witnessed three governments with Lapang as chief minister twice during the current term of the Assembly, which began March 2008.
Sangma, the deputy chief minister in the 12-member Cabinet, was "unanimously chosen" as Lapang`s successor by 21 of the 28 Congress legislators at a closed-door meeting Friday night.
The meeting held at Sangma`s private residence was attended by rebel Congress legislators who had earlier projected Assembly Speaker Charles Pyngrope as Lapang`s replacement. They have now pledged "unconditional support" to Sangma.
The rebels have demanded Lapang`s removal on charges that the state has not made any progress under his leadership.
"All 21 legislators have unanimously chosen Sangma as Lapang`s successor. I am sure the rest (Lapang`s loyalists) too will join us," Prestone Tynsong, a senior Congress minister, said.
"All have pledged their unconditional support to me and to ensure coherence and unity in the Congress Legislature Party," Sangma said when asked if he enjoys the majority of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).
"I am happy that this stalemate would be sorted out soon with the intervention of the Congress leadership," he said.
Sangma and Tynsong also met Governor RS Mooshahary and apprised him of the situation.
Thereafter, Sangma left for New Delhi Saturday along with 21 legislators to brief Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the development.
Asked if he no longer enjoyed a majority, Lapang, who is camping in New Delhi said: "No one is indispensable, but the Congress high command will have a final say on it (leadership issue)."
He, however, reiterated his stand that he would step down only if it was proved that he had lost the support of a majority of the legislators.
"Unity of the party is my first priority and therefore, if the party directs me to pave the way for my successor I will have to abide by it," Lapang said.
Soon after Assembly Elections in 2008, Lapang was sworn as chief minister, his fourth stint, for just 10 days.
Thereafter, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) backed United Democratic Party (UDP)-led five-party coalition took office with UDP chief Donkupar Roy as the chief minister, but barely within a year the coalition was dismissed and the state was brought under President`s Rule.
Lapang, however, engineered dissension within the NCP-UDP coalition and managed to reclaim his job with the help of three independent ministers of the Roy ministry.
In the 60-member legislature, the Congress has 28 legislators and has the support of 10 UDP members, five independents and one KHNAM legislator. The main opposition NCP has 15 legislators.