As he walked in, accompanied by his ceremonial guard and an entourage of officials, the empty chairs draped in white stood out like a sore thumb. The first day of the budget session of the Meghalaya assembly today saw an unprecedented scene with empty opposition seats during the address of Governor Tathagata Roy.
The Congress declared it was boycotting the governor's speech as a mark of protest against his controversial tweet last month in which he endorsed a social boycott of Kashmiris in wake of the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir that left 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force dead.
"An appeal from a retired colonel of the Indian Army: Don't visit Kashmir, don't go to Amarnath for the next 2 years. Don't buy articles from Kashmir emporia or Kashmiri tradesman who come every winter. Boycott everything Kashmiri. I am inclined to agree," the governor had tweeted.
Also seemingly endorsing atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army on the people of Bangladesh during their freedom struggle, he said: "The Pakistan Army (who are handling the Kashmiri separatists) was among their own in East Pakistan in 1971. They slaughtered and raped right and left. And they would have kept EP but for the whacking from India. I am not suggesting that we go that far. But at least some distance?"
The remark triggered a barrage of criticism on social media and demands for his removal by the opposition parties and even allies of the BJP. The, however, centre is yet to announce what action, if any, it plans to take against the governor.
In his speech today, Mr Roy said the state's Conrad Sangma government was making concerted efforts to improve the standard of living of the people through better governance.
But the speech was overshadowed by the Congress boycott. The leader of the opposition in Meghalaya and former chief minister Mukul Sangma tweeted:
The Congress Legislature Party boycotts the Governor's Address demonstrating strong protest against his call to boycott the Kashmiri's and Kashmiri goods post #Pulwama terrorist attack. @INCMeghalayahttps://t.co/KIESeM0tQf- Mukul Sangma (@mukulsangma) March 8, 2019
"The PM should have pulled up the governor. He should have been removed from the high office in the best interest of the nation," Mukul Sangma told reporters.