A DOCTOR BY training, Mukul Sangma was chief minister of Meghalaya from 2010 to 2018. He quit the Congress and joined the Trinamool Congress in 2021.
Mukul is known to be a good singer and is a Kishore Kumar fan. His father belongs to the Garo tribe and his mother is a Bengali Muslim from Assam. As opposition leader, he hopes to lead the Trinamool to its first election victory in the northeast.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q/ Five years ago, I saw you singing a Kishore Kumar song during an election campaign. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was with you, smiling. And now you are in the Trinamool. What happened?
A/ See, the purpose of life is to serve people. God has given me a life to serve people as a doctor and elected representative. When the election result was out in 2018, the Congress was the single largest party, and I was looking for [the party leadership in] Delhi to intervene so that a government could be formed to check the BJP. But they remained silent. It was pathetic.
Q/ But you could have formed a party and waited for Mamata Banerjee to approach you.
A/ The offer was there. I could not forgive my leadership for failing to hold talks with a secular party for government formation. Then the West Bengal polls happened. It was a historic one, and after that I took the decision.
Q/ To jump ship?
A/ I was the victim of circumstances. Also, there was despair among the youth in Meghalaya. There were no jobs, and corruption was rampant. Mamata Banerjee and I discussed the issue, and we decided to check social disharmony. We need to bring back the spirit of inclusiveness, which is most important for economic growth.
Q/ What do you think of the Conrad Sangma government? The chief minister seems to be a suave, gentleman politician.
A/ If that be the case, then he is not at the helm of affairs and other politicians are using his name to fulfil their agenda. The chief minister must know what is happening in the state. Otherwise, he is not a chief minister.
Q/ What has he ignored?
A/ Crime. Cognisable offences were not taken seriously. The police and the administration were put on silent mode. Then coal started disappearing from coal pits.
Q/ What was the chief minister’s role in it?
A/ This was brought to the CM’s notice. I myself did it in the assembly. But he was in denial mode.
Q/ What action did you want from him?
A/ He should have brought the criminals to book. It (the illegal mining) was bleeding the exchequer. We demanded that he order a CBI inquiry.
Q/ Will you bring the CBI if you return to power?
A/ Of course, we will.
Q/ Will the Trinamool be able to form its first government outside West Bengal?
A/ We will sweep this election. I am getting a huge response everywhere. People want us to form a government that at least unites all ethnic tribes.
Q/ What about the Khasi demand for inner line permits?
A/ This demand is not new. They came to me when I was chief minister, but I told them that I could not do it alone, and that it is the prerogative of the Union home ministry. Why should I give them a false promise?
Q/ But the Congress was in power at the Centre when you became chief minister for the first time.
A/ Our Central government had no intention of issuing fresh inner line permits to any state.