The Union Cabinet could on Wednesday recommend ending President’s rule in politically fragile Arunachal Pradesh after the Supreme Court refused to pass a stopgap order on a Congress plea that governor JP Rajkhowa be restrained from swearing in a new government.
Sources say the home ministry is waiting for a report from the governor about the situation in the northeastern state that has been facing a political turmoil since last December’s revolt by a section of lawmakers of the Congress, which was in power, against chief minister Nabam Tuki.
President Pranab Mukherjee signed an order last month to place Arunachal Pradesh under central rule following a recommendation from the Union Cabinet, while the Congress approached the Supreme Court, accusing Rajkhowa of acting like a “BJP agent”.
Imposition of President’s rule has been a controversial issue in India, with successive governments facing accusations of abusing Article 356 of the Constitution to foist it on states.
Rajkhowa is learnt to have sent the claim of Congress dissidents for forming the government to the President. Led by dissident leader Kalikho Pul, 32 MLAs including 11 of BJP from the 60-member assembly had met the governor on Monday to stake claim.
The Congress suffered a blow when a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar on Tuesday declined a plea from its leaders that status quo be maintained in the crisis-hit state and no new government formation be permitted.
“We have heard your arguments on injunction. We don’t propose to pass any order and we will hear the matter on merits,” the top court said.
At one point the SC offered to direct a floor test to determine the relative strengths of the groups, but the counsel representing former chief minister Tuki and Speaker Nabam Rebia declined.
A Congress delegation headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad, who leads the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, met Mukherjee and urged him to not allow the revocation of President’s rule in the state, saying Rajkhowa intends to swear-in Pul as the new chief minister.
The party, which has 47 MLAs in the state assembly, suffered a jolt when 21 of them rebelled and 11 BJP legislators backed the dissidents in a bid to pull the rug from under the Nabam Tuki government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified.
The governor then called an assembly session on December 16 in which the deputy speaker revoked the disqualification of the 14 rebel Congress legislators and removed the Speaker.