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New cabinet size sought
Published on 21 Apr. 2010 12:22 AM IST
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The Congress Tuesday said a new yardstick has to be evolved for fixing the size of the council of ministers in northeast states to prevent political instability.
“A new yardstick must be evolved for the northeast in order to ensure stable governments in this region,” Congress Working Committee member Oscar Fernandez told IANS.
His statement is significant in the wake of the change of guard in Meghalaya which has seen four chief ministers in two years.
“We have seen a lot of instability in Meghalaya and in other parts of the northeast, but at the end we have to respond to the voice of the majority,” Fernandez said, when asked on the demand made by some northeast chief ministers to make changes in the 91st amendment to the Constitution.
The amendment limits the size of the council of ministers in states to no more than 15 percent of the number of seats in the legislature.
Outgoing Chief Minister D.D. Lapang claimed that pruning of the cabinet has affected the smooth functioning of the government.
“In a small state like Meghalaya, with 60 legislators, downsizing of the cabinet has become very difficult to accommodate the aspirations of various coalition partners, resulting in instability,” he said.
Lapang said during his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he touched upon the issue of amending the Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2003.
Under the act, the size of the council of ministers in a state cannot exceed 15 percent of the number of seats in legislature. An exception was made for Goa, Sikkim, Mizoram - which have 40-member legislatures - where a maximum of 12 ministers were allowed in cabinet.
Political instability is not new to Meghalaya - the state has already seen three governments since the March 2008 election.
Lapang quit as chief minister Monday after he failed to meet the demands of rebel Congress legislators to drop Independent legislators and the lone Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement member from the 12-member cabinet.
The rebels also sought induction of senior Congress legislators in their place. When Lapang failed to do so, the rebels pressed for his removal.
Mukul M. Sangma who replaces Lapang, is Meghalaya’s 21st chief minister in 39 years and the fourth in a little over two years. There have been just two occasions when a chief minister has completed the full five-year term since Meghalaya attained statehood in 1972.
In the present 60-member legislature, the Congress has 28 legislators and enjoys the support of nine United Democratic Party (UDP) members. The NCP, the main opposition, has 15 legislators.

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