Heard on the grapevine: Rijiju may replace Khandu as Arunachal CM
According to rumours that surfaced in the corridors of power of Itanagar, Khandu – who joined the BJP on December 31 by deserting the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) – may have to make way for an old saffron face.india Updated: Jan 06, 2017 14:20 IST
Political changes in Arunachal Pradesh are as unpredictable as the earthquakes that frequently strike India’s northeast region.
Days after chief minister Pema Khandu joined the BJP with 32 MLAs to present the saffron party with its first full-fledged government in the region, speculations are rife that he may be replaced soon. According to rumours that surfaced in the corridors of power of Itanagar, Khandu – who joined the BJP on December 31 by deserting the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) – may have to make way for an old saffron face.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju’s name is doing the rounds as the next likely chief minister of the state. State BJP chief Tapir Gao is also said to be in the race.
Though BJP office-bearers and senior ministers in the Khandu government denied any such development, party legislators in the state are reportedly unhappy with Khandu’s presence in their midst.
Gao, however, dismissed the reports as false. “Pema Khandu is, and will remain, our chief minister. These rumours are being spread as by some Congress workers,” he told HT over the phone from Delhi.
Senior BJP leaders from the state, including Rijiju, Khandu and Gao, are in the national capital to attend the party’s national executive meet – which started on Friday.
Prior to Khandu joining the party, the BJP had 12 MLAs in the state and was a coalition partner in the PPA-led North East Development Alliance (NEDA) government. With 33 PPA MLAs joining the party and two Congress legislators switching sides, the BJP’s strength in the 60-member assembly has gone up to 47. Two independent MLAs also support Khandu’s government.
“There is no question of Khandu being replaced as there are no differences among our MLAs, neither the old members nor the new ones who joined from the PPA. We have all settled in here comfortably,” deputy chief minister Chowna Mein said.
Khandu became the chief minister as a Congress legislator in July last year. He switched sides to join the PPA in September, and then entered the BJP after he and 10 other MLAs were suspended for anti-party activities.
Meanwhile, the PPA remains undecided on being a part of the coalition government in the state as well as continuing with NEDA, the BJP-led alliance of regional parties opposed to the Congress. “We have taken up the issue with NEDA convenor and senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. A decision will be taken after a meeting in Guwahati next week,” said PPA chairman Kamen Ringu.
After the desertion of Khandu and the 32 legislators, the regional outfit is now left with 10 MLAs.