Arunachal Pradesh is just not the right stage for the theatre of political absurdity. Two-thirds of the state is claimed by China, a dormant Naga insurgency could always come back to life, and much of India’s toughest frontline straddles this culturally distinct state in the far northeast.
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his approval to the cabinet’s recommendation for the state to be put under the President’s rule, a constitutional provision that allows direct administration from New Delhi, following the political turmoil that began in November.
The state’s granular political slugfest has resulted in a Congress-BJP face-off at the national level. Here’s a quick recap of what led to this situation:
The actual crisis was set off on December 16, when 21 rebel Congress MLAs joined hands with 11 BJP members and two Independents to “impeach” speaker Nabam Rebia at a makeshift venue because he had locked down the assembly.
Serious infighting broke out in the ruling Congress government led by chief minister Nabam Tuki, with 21 of the 47 members gunning for Tuki’s scalp. Faced with an imminent floor test, Tuki is believed to have delayed an assembly session while Rebia failed to convene the House within six months -- as required. The deadline lapsed on January 14.
Things precipitated when governor JP Rajkhowa called for rescheduling the assembly session, and asked the deputy speaker to take up a motion seeking the removal of Rebia from the Speaker’s post. Soon, the battle moved to the judicial arena, with the Gauhati high court ordering that the governor’s orders be kept in abeyance. The Supreme Court referred the matter to a larger bench.
The Congress has alleged the governor was a “BJP man” who was trying to pave the way for a saffron government.
All this political instability doesn’t bode well for the state. “Instability, whether political or (related to) law and order in nature is not a good thing for a border state. China closely observes events occurring in India, which is an open book. But we hardly get to know what’s happening in China,” said a former governor of the state who has served in the armed forces.
China claims that the state is part of what it calls “South Tibet”. The Communist neighbour still protests visits by the President or Prime Minister to the state – as had happened during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last year. The visit “infringes on China’s territorial sovereignty and interests, magnifies the dispute on the border issue, and violates the consensus on appropriately handling the border issue”, the Chinese foreign ministry had said.
Nevertheless, although the suspension of an elected government isn’t desirable, imposing President’s rule in the state isn’t a bad idea: It will put the Centre firmly in control, there would be no hindrance to the army executing its duties, and policing will not suffer. Elections are due in six months’ time.
“Politicians should understand that this state is India’s pride,” another army general who served as the governor said.