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The cold war between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP), both allies of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) coalition, over the coal mining issue in the state deepens with the former's demand for the resignation of Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui.
Talking tough, the BJP has asked Rymbui, who is also a UDP leader, to step down on ‘moral ground’.
“Since he (Rymbui) heads the Home department, he should take the responsibility and resign,” BJP state vice-president Bernard N Marak told TNT-The Northeast Today on Thursday.
He clarified that it is the collective decision of the party to call for an independent inquiry into the death of six miners near Lad Rymbai in East Jaintia Hills on January 21.
“The government has continuously denied the prevalence of illegal coal mining in the state and, this has led to several unfortunate incidents. Someone has to take the blame,” Marak said.
He also alleged that whenever a tragedy related to coal mining happens, they (ministers) always try to escape. “These illegal activities are benefiting someone and the people are deprived,” the BJP leader stated.
Terming the alleged inability of the government to check illegal coal mining as “unreasonable”, Marak said the money collected from the illegal practice does not go to the State’s Treasury, but to someone else’s pocket.
Corruption has gone from bad to worse, and we hope the Chief Minister will bring about a positive change because nothing much has changed in the state ever since the MDA came to power, he said.
When asked whether such remarks will impact the MDA coalition, Marak replied in the negative. “Corruption is a different issue and coalition is a different matter. The coalition will remain,” he said.
Meanwhile, UDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Mathew Lanong said that the matter is controversial as there are so many factors involved.
He agreed that illegal coal mining is still going on in the State and has not been checked for a long time, and this can be attributed to the absence of a comprehensive mechanism.
“In 2012, when a comprehensive draft mining policy was submitted to the then Congress government and the recommendations were approved by the then cabinet under Dr Mukul Sangma, it was never implemented,” Lanong said adding that the events that transpired after that like the intervention of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court are history.
“So, you see this is the legacy that has been going on. It is difficult to comment on the issue unless an inquiry report is made available,” he added.
The UDP leader also expressed his disagreement over the demand of the BJP state party leadership for the resignation of Lahkmen Rymbui stating that it is 'easier said than done'.
“If you are already blaming him (Rymbui), then what is the point of conducting an inquiry?” Lanong questioned.
When asked if these “controversial and provocative” statements made by the BJP will impact the MDA coalition, Lanong said, “The statements are made by the BJP state party leadership and not the BJP MLAs who are part of the government. So no, it will not impact the coalition. MDA is stable.”
Interestingly, BJP MLA and Health and Family Welfare Minister Alexander Laloo Hek has extended his support to the Home Minister stating that he has no doubts on the capability of Rymbui to “unearth the truth” behind the death of the six miners in East Jaintia Hills.
"You cannot blame the Home Minister for the tragic incident which led to the death of the six miners. But it is the duty of the Home Minister and the State Government to unearth the truth. I am sure that he (Rymbui) will try his best to go to the bottom of the issue. I know the capability of the Home Minister," Hek said on Thursday.
Earlier, Meghalaya BJP president Ernest Mawrie had demanded the Home Minister to ensure that everyone who is indulging in illegalities is arrested.