In another nine months, Arunachal Pradesh’s Gegong Apang would become India’s longest serving chief minister, albeit with a break in between. But dissidents threaten to rob him of the chance to beat former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu’s record of 23 years and five months.
Less than a month after Congress MLAs in Meghalaya forced a change in leadership, Arunachal Congressmen are also on the warpath: they have intensified their demand that Apang be replaced by Khandu Dorjee, power minister in the state.
Two dozen of the 33 Congress MLAs have been camping in Delhi for a week now to urge the High Command to change the CM. Earlier, the group had adopted a resolution to this effect. They also warned that if their demand was not met they would join a regional party and tie up with the Opposition, including the nine member BJP in the state.
Restive for the last six months, on April 2, the MLAs handed a memorandum to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in which they articulated their demand. They also complained about Apang’s ``autocratic’’ style of functioning, lack of development and growth of corruption in the state. This included a Rs 160 crore scam in the Arunachal Pradesh State Cooperative Apex Bank, whose 32 branches have been non-functional for over two years.
The MLAs also met Congress president’s Political Secretary Ahmed Patel and Oscar Fernandes, Union Minister for Labour and AICC leader in charge of the state. They were to meet Fernandes again late Wednesday night amid indications that the High Command may direct that a Congress Legislature Party be convened to discuss the issue.
``With the kind of strength we have, we are sure that we will get a new CM,’’ said a member of the oust-Apang group. In the 60-member Assembly, the Congress has 33 members, the BJP nine, the NCP three and a regional party two. There are 13 Independents. According to the dissidents, Apang is left with only seven members, though two are also in touch with them. “All ministers in Apang’s cabinet are in favour of a change in leadership,” said Tako Dabi, panchayati raj minister and government spokesman.
With the dissidents raising their ante, the wheel seems to be turning full circle for Apang who had revolted against the High Command during the NDA regime and formed a rebel government before staging a comeback to the Congress. Unless, he manages to stave off the crisis.
Meanwhile, Apang’s bete noire and lieutenant governor of Puducherry Mukut Mithi has reached Itanagar. He, however, refused to disclose the reason behind his arrival at “this hour of crisis".