A political musical chair is the highlight of the election season in Meghalaya. As many as 20 MLAs have so far switched their allegiances during their tenure in the 60-member state assembly with many of them even joining ideologically-opposed outfits.
Last year, 12 Congress MLAs had joined Trinamool led by former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, making it the main opposition party in Meghalaya.
But the past month saw way more defections: the lone Nationalist Congress (NCP) MLA joined Congress, two National People's Party (NPP) leaders joined BJP, a NPP leader joined Trinamool, and a Trinamool candidate shifted to BJP.
Samborlang Deingdoh, a Trinamool candidate who quit despite getting an election ticket, said, "I don't want to be a part of the mudslinging politics and want to promote clean politics. I am confident I can do it myself."
Besides, a Trinamool leader also joined United Democratic Party (UDP), two Trinamool leaders joined NPP, an Independent leader joined BJP, while two People's Democratic Front (PDF) leaders joined NPP.
Among the suspended Congress leaders, three joined NPP and two joined UDP. Besides, a Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) joined the Voice of the People Party (VPP), a Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) leader joined NPP and UDP each. One Independent MLA also joined UDP.
"At state level, during the last polls, UDP supported HSPDP. So I have decided to strengthen the regional force UDP by joining them," said Meghalaya Minister Renikton Lyngdoh, who is among the 20 MLAs who have defected.
At least 17 of the defectors, including eight MLAs from other parties, have been fielded by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma-led NPP.
Prominent Meghalaya leaders, like four-time Independent MLA Samuel Sangma, have joined the BJP. Meanwhile, Dr Ampareen Lyngdoh, the longest serving woman legislator and a former Congress minister, has joined NPP.
"The NPP has been able to lead a coalition and bring some good schemes. So we thought we can join this progressive work," said Dr Lyngdoh.
Among other defectors is three-time MLA Saleng Sangma, who left Sharad Pawar's NCP and joined Congress. Justifying his move, he explained, "For all these years I have voiced my support for NCP. It's not about any vote bank or myself, but for the people. The Congress is still a platform to work for people."
Also, Cabinet Minister Renikton Lyngdoh of HSPDP joined UDP.
Due to its unpredictable political weather, Meghalaya has had only one majority government since the seventies. Only three Chief Ministers have completed a full five-year term in the state.