SHILLONG, Feb 22 (PTI): Star campaigners like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee or Congress’ Rahul Gandhi who have helicoptered in to pitch for their respective party candidates, leave National People’s Party leader and Meghalaya deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong unimpressed.
Tynsong, a former Congress leader likened the “big guns” campaign style to a “car rally show” which he claimed will not cut ice with local voters, even as he also quickly added that the multi-cornered contest with BJP, Congress and TMC pitching in to battle it out with local parties like his, will help the NPP as “opposition votes will be divided”.
“It’s just like a car rally show, so many people want to take a ride, but ultimately you don’t get the votes,” Tynsong said in an interview to PTI, while explaining his reaction to the galaxy of national leaders who have descended on this picturesque northeastern state, often described as ‘India’s Switzerland’.
He said that the NPP does not bother about the heavyweights who have pitched their tents in this state of an estimated 33 lakh people, most of them tribals from the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes.
” Conrad Sangma is our national president and I am the national vice president, we are the star campaigners of the NPP and we are locals from this state.
” As far as NPP is concerned, we do not need any other people to come from outside the state because they don’t know anything about it,” the deputy chief minister of the outgoing government said.
Playing the son of the soil card, Tynsong said that Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and he were born and brought up in Meghalaya and know the issues which really matter to the people of Meghalaya.
Exuding confidence, the leader who hails from the Khasi community claimed that his party would win a “minimum 32 to 34 seats” in the 60-member assembly.
In the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, the NPP expects to bag 19 seats and 13-14 in the Garo Hills region.
To a question, Tynsong claimed the TMC will not get more than six seats as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has made a mistake in inducting former CM and Congress leader Mukul Sangma into the party.
“She thought that Mukul Sangma is still a popular leader in Meghalaya, but he is not,” he said.
Peeved at allegations of corruption against the NPP-led dispensation by its former coalition partners, he said that these people were with them from 2018 and never complained about anything till the elections were announced in 2023.
Claiming that there was never any misunderstanding, be it in the cabinet or coalition meetings, he said “The moment the election notification came, they started making allegations which ultimately means the NPP is growing.”
Regarding discontent among a section of people over mining rights of coal in the eastern parts of the state, he said that following a National Green Tribunal ban on rat hole mining, the NPP-led government had moved the Supreme Court, which gave certain directions for safe and scientific mining of coal in Meghalaya.
The unscientific rat hole mining had led to several accidents and deaths of people in the past few years.
Tynsong said that several applications have been received for resuming coal mining, which have been sent to the ministry of Coal and Mines for approval.
“Once that is done, they can restart mining operations,” he said.
Admitting that smaller landowners are not happy with the new rules for minimum land holding to get permission, he said that it cannot be helped.
“For mining activities, you need to work as per the prescribed norms,” the deputy chief minister said.