Mukul flies to Delhi for Sonia's approval

Shillong, March 7: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul M. Sangma flew to New Delhi today to meet AICC president Sonia Gandhi and seek her approval of the list of ministers.
Sangma, who took oath as the state's chief minister on Tuesday, will expand his cabinet next week. The swearing-in ceremony of the 11 ministers is expected to take place on Tuesday.
With 29 legislators, including the chief minister, the Congress is facing a problem of plenty, but the prerogative to choose the ministers has been left to Sangma alone.
"It would be improper for me to reveal the names of the ministers (because they are) pending approval of the AICC president," Sangma told reporters in the Assembly.
Meghalaya can have only 12 ministers, including the chief minister, in the cabinet.
After election results were declared, it emerged that at least five berths from the previous Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) ministry would fall vacant.
But it remains unclear whether the other six berths, which were occupied by Congress legislators, will be kept untouched.
The six former cabinet members include Rowell Lyngdoh, Prestone Tynsong, H.D.R. Lyngdoh, R.C. Laloo, A.L. Hek and M. Ampareen Lyngdoh. Sources said all of them, with the exception of Hek, could be retained.
The names doing the rounds as probable ministers include Meghalaya PCC working president Deborah C. Marak, Zenith M. Sangma, Sniawbhalang Dhar, Ronnie V. Lyngdoh, Celestine Lyngdoh, and Martin M. Danggo.
"As soon as we complete the discussions and get approval from the Congress president on the proposed list, we will immediately come back and complete the process so that we can start working because we need to prepare for the budget," he said.
Speaker's election
On Monday, the House will elect the Speaker of Meghalaya's ninth Assembly.
The Congress has chosen former power minister Abu Taher Mondal as its candidate and the party is trying to ensure that he gets elected to the constitutional office unopposed.
Mondal, a three-time legislator from Phulbari in West Garo Hills, is known for his loyalty to the chief minister.
If elected, Mondal will be the first legislator from the non-indigenous community of Meghalaya to occupy the chair. Hitherto, 14 legislators have occupied the office of Speaker. Earlier, only legislators belonging to the Khasi, Jaintia or Garo tribes held the office.
A UDP legislator told this correspondent that the party is unlikely to put up a candidate for the Speaker's post. NPP legislator James P.K. Sangma also said his party would not field any candidate against Mondal. The HSPDP is likely to do the same.
Wooing other parties: Currently, the UDP, NPP and HSPDP are in the Opposition. The chief minister said the Congress was holding talks with the HSPDP, which has four legislators, to join the ruling coalition. On the UDP, he said the party had already given its decision on where it wanted to be.