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Congress loses Arunachal Pradesh again as 43 MLAs join regional party

The Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh plunged into a fresh crisis on Friday as all but one of its legislators joined a regional outfit, two months after the party’s administration was restored by the Supreme Court.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2016 01:52 IST
Friday dawned with chief minister Pema Khandu and his MLAs huddled with Peoples Party of Arunachal leaders.
Friday dawned with chief minister Pema Khandu and his MLAs huddled with Peoples Party of Arunachal leaders.(Rahul Karmakar/HT Photo)

The Congress is out of power in Arunachal Pradesh again after all but one of its MLAs joined a regional party on Friday, barely two months after the party’s government was restored by the Supreme Court.

The fresh crisis for the Congress could potentially lead to another prolonged turmoil in one of the most politically fickle states in the country that has seen chief ministers play musical chairs and legislators hop from one party to another over the years.

Forty-three MLAs led by chief minister Pema Khandu joined the Peoples Party of Arunachal (PPA), leaving the Congress with only former chief minister Nabam Tuki. The 43 includes assembly speaker TN Thongdok.

Read: Arunachal crisis timeline: Kalikho Pul’s expulsion to restoration of Cong govt

The Congress, which accused the BJP of engineering the defection, described the PPA as the

“illegitimate child” of the saffron party.

“Sadly the architects of extinguishing and murdering the very spirit of democracy and constitutionalism, are PM Modi and (BJP chief) Amit Shah who rode to power on the promise of cooperative federalism,” Congress spokespersonRandeep Singh Surjewala said in Delhi.

Union minister Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal Pradesh and allegedly behind the power struggle there, countered the charge.

“What can we do if MLAs do not want to stay with Congress? The Supreme Court had reinstated the Congress government but it is ultimately the decision of the MLAs,” Rijiju said.

In December, more than 30 Congress rebels backed by the BJP had sided with the PPA, leading to formation of a government of the regional party led by Kalikho Pul.

Read: It’s a political potboiler in Arunachal as BJP, Cong fight over MLAs

It was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court and the Congress had managed to wean back the rebel MLAs with Khandu at the helm.

Deputy chief minister Chowna Mein said the new government is likely to be installed within the next few days, deputy chief minister Chowna Mein said.

“We joined PPA because we want friendly relationship with the Centre to ensure better flow of funds. We have a huge liability and it is important for us to be with the central government,” Khandu said in Itanagar.

While the PPA has 43 MLAs in the 60-member assembly, the BJP is the second largest group with 11 legislators. Two independent MLAs also backed the new front and two Congress MLAs “resigned” last year under controversial circumstances.

One seat is vacant after Pul committed suicide on August 9.

The fresh developments also came a few days after the Centre sacked governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, who had summoned a controversial assembly session that ultimately led to imposition of President’s Rule on January 26. The Congress had then accused the central government of “using” Rajkhowa to topple the Tuki government.

“This is a homecoming for our PPA leaders after a temporary self-exile,” Kameng Ringu, chairman of PPA, told Hindustan Times, denying the BJP had a hand in driving the switch.