Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki will seek a trust vote on Saturday after the governor declined to defer the trial of strength, potentially setting the stage for a fresh face-off between the Congress and the ruling BJP at the Centre.
The odds are heavily stacked against the Supreme Court-reinstated chief minister, who has only 14 MLAs in the assembly with an effective strength of 58.
His rival and former chief minister Kalikho Pul, on the other hand, claims the support of 43 MLAs including 30 of his own party, the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA). Pul had formed a rebel Congress government in February before his group merged with the regional party. The PPA is backed by 11 Bharatiya Janata Party and two Independent legislators.
Tuki was reinstated by the Supreme Court on Wednesday in what is seen as a setback to the BJP’s political strategy for the largest state in the northeast.
The Congress, which accuses the Narendra Modi government of trying to dislodge democratically-elected opposition-ruled state governments, fired a fresh salvo on Friday, accusing the central government of defying the top court “by intervening in the matter through the governor”.
“The Narendra Modi government has absolutely no respect for the democracy,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters in Delhi.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said an assembly session can only be convened on the government’s advice.
“It is not the governor’s prerogative to call the House,” Sibal said adding, “We are ready for a floor test on July 24 or 25.”
Tuki wrote to governor Tathagata Roy on Thursday night and met him at the Raj Bhavan on Friday, seeking at least 10 more days to prove his majority.
The governor, officiating for JP Rajkhowa who is recovering from surgery, however, told Tuki that his government did not command the required majority in the assembly and advised him to prove his majority in the assembly on Saturday.
“He also emphasised that (a) sense of security amongst the people must prevail and deterrent action must be taken to ensure fool-proof law and order in the state,” a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said.
Section 144 was imposed in Itanagar near the Assembly ahead of floor test, according to ANI.
Tuki said the SC ruling, taking the clock back to what the assembly position was on December 15, automatically made the PPA legislators Congress members. This, according to him, puts the number of Congress MLAs at 45.
“The direction to prove my majority on or before July 16 gives me less than 48 hours’ time since my arrival in Itanagar today (Thursday). Many of my colleagues/MLAs are out of station and I am trying to contact them,” Tuki said in his letter.
Tuki also cited the Sarkaria Commission report that recommended enough time for an assembly to be summoned for a chief minister to prove his majority.
Assembly speaker Nabam Rebia also said was is not possible to hold the assembly session in such a short time.
“If the governor wants us to overlook the formalities and hold the session, we will do it. But there are procedures such as getting notification from the parliamentary affairs department and summoning the MLAs.”
State Congress president Padi Richo told Hindustan Times that the party will issue a whip to 45 MLAs including the 30 rebels who sided with Pul to trigger the crisis in the politically fragile state.
Pul and 34 other MLAs camping in Guwahati are expected to reach Naharlagun, where the state assembly is situated, on Saturday morning. Naharlagun is 12 km from capital Itanagar.
(With inputs from agencies)