SHILLONG, Nov 19 � Uncertain about getting approval from Parliament to amend the Constitution and increase seats in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC), the Meghalaya Government has decided to hold polls to the Council with the present strength.
In a Cabinet decision last evening, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said polls would be held for the GHADC next year. �We will proceed with the election to the GHADC with the existing seats,� Sangma said.
The strength of the GHADC is 29. It was slated to rise to 40. This increase in seats is linked to the signing of the peace agreement with the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), which has demanded that the strength of GHADC be increased to 40 and two of its members get direct nomination to the Council.
Although the Centre and State Government have agreed to the text of the peace agreement, any changes to the Autonomous District Council (ADC) requires amendment of the Indian Constitution, as these bodies were formed under the Sixth Schedule.
The State Government rescheduled polls by extending its tenure by six months twice hoping for an amendment of the Constitution. GHADC polls were scheduled to be held earlier this year. The term of the second extension ends in February 2015 and with no signs of an amendment, Sangma said polls cannot be delayed any further.
The announcement has come as a setback for the ANVC, as with the present strength there would be no direct nomination of its two members as was demanded.
Moreover, the GHADC polls would be a crucial test for the Chief Minister himself as his leadership is being challenged both within the party and also by the Opposition National People�s Party. A loss for the Congress party in the GHADC would have repercussions on Sangma�s hold in Garo Hills and the State overall.
To top it, the Garo Hills is in turmoil with several militant groups fighting a turf war to get the spoils from illegal toll collection from coal, rampant extortions and killings for area domination. The Garo National Liberation Army has been particularly brutal, amongst a dozen others.
Meanwhile, Sangma said that whatever changes are incorporated in the GHADC the same would be applied to the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in Khasi and Jaintia Hills.