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Congress retains power, Apang bites dust

There's no such thing as anti-incumbency in Arunachal Pradesh - whichever party or alliance rules New Delhi has always held sway over this frontier state, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 12:14 IST
Rahul Karmakar

There's no such thing as anti-incumbency in Arunachal Pradesh - whichever party or alliance rules New Delhi has always held sway over this frontier state. Mandate 2009 was no different with the Congress retaining power with two-thirds majority. But what stung was its inability to sweep the polls owing mainly to parties that are otherwise its allies at the Centre.

"The results have proved there's no alternative to development and good governance," said chief minister Dorjee Khandu after the results for the 60-member House were declared by Thursday evening. The Congress won 38 of the 57 seats where elections were held. With the three seats it won unopposed earlier, the party's final tally was 42.

Khandu, though, agreed his party could have fared better but for NCP and Trinamool Congress (TC) - the Congress' allies in the UPA - putting up strong fight. While the NCP bagged five of the 36 seats it contested (three more than in 2004), debutant TC wrested five of the 26 seats it contested.

The BJP, battling for survival in the state it had ruled for a year, managed three of the 18 seats it contested. It had won nine seats in 2004, although all the MLAs later switched over to the Congress.

A surprise packet was the regional Peoples' Party of Arunachal, which tasted electoral victory after 20 years. It won three seats, one of them being Takam Tagar, brother of Congress MP Takam Sanjoy and the richest contestant with assets of over Rs 209 crore. He won the Palin seat.

Mandate 2009 also established Khandu as the undisputed leader of the Congress in Arunachal with two power centres having crumbled. One was around the once invincible former CM Gegong Apang, who lost his pet Tuting-Yinkiong seat for the first time in eight outings to former radio artiste Alo Libang of the NCP by 1,370 votes. Apang, 62, had been Arunachal Pradesh's CM for 23 years, 19 of them on the trot from 1980-1999.

Apang's son Omak, a former Union minister of state, also lost the Pasighat West seat to Tangor Tapak of BJP by 636 votes. The loss completed the "end of the family hold" in the state. "We accept the people's verdict," was what Apang senior said.

The other revolved around former CM Mukut Mithi - Apang's bete noire - who was earlier "shunted out" with a Rajya Sabha berth. His wife Pomaya Mithi lost the prestigious Roing seat by 833 votes to Laeta Umbrey of TC.

Interestingly, Atum Welley of Congress bagged the least number of votes - 1422 - to still win the Pakke Kessang seat by 110 votes. He defeated Techi Hemu of the NCP.

According to political observers in Itanagar, Khandu's acceptability as a leader more concerned about the state's development helped the Congress. Khandu, hailing from Tawang district, is also the strongest voice in Arunachal Pradesh against China's "baseless claims" on his state.

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