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Congress confident of retaining power

The Congress is confident of retaining power in Arunachal Pradesh. It, however, is wary of "friends turned foes" impacting its score when the Assembly election results are declared on Thursday. Rahul Karmakar reports.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2009 17:27 IST
Rahul Karmakar

The Congress is confident of retaining power in Arunachal Pradesh. It, however, is wary of "friends turned foes" impacting its score when the Assembly election results are declared on Thursday. Elections to 57 of 60 seats in the Assembly – the fifth after Arunachal Pradesh attained statehood in 1987 – were held on October 13. Three Congress legislators including chief minister Dorjee Khandu won their seats unopposed.

"The people are with us because of a slew of developmental projects that we had undertaken and given shape to," Khandu said. "There’s no reason why we shouldn’t form the government again comfortably." But senior party leaders have a "gut feeling" the Congress "won't perform to expectation" owing mainly to the dumping of 14 sitting MLAs prior to the polls and the sidelining of other "deserving veterans".

The buoyancy in the Congress camp is being attributed to it’s virtually Opposition-less reign under Khandu, who took over in 2007 after Gegong Apang had to step down following charges of large-scale corruption. The Congress had in 2004 won 34 seats, but nine BJP legislators, two each of NCP and the regional Arunachal Congress and 13 Independents merged later to given it a full House.

But the NCP and Trinamool Congress are interpreting Congress’ confidence as complacency. These two constituents of the UPA government are the Congress’ enemies in Arunachal Pradesh, perhaps more than the uncharacteristically subdued BJP.

"We may be friends (with Congress) at the Centre, but this is a different battlefield," N Wanglat, former minister and NCP’s state unit president, told HT from Itanagar. "We are confident of winning at least 15 of the 36 seats we contested primarily against the Congress. We’ll keep our options open if we attain this figure." Kito Saro, Wanglat’s counterpart in the Trinamool Congress, was also hopeful about his party getting "a double digit result". The party contested 26 of the 57 seats.

The BJP, on the other hand, preferred to be realistic. "We have very strong chances in four seats," said Chandrashekhar Rao, the party’s head for the Northeast. The BJP had contested 18 seats, a climbdown from 2004 when it had fielded candidates in 39. The party received a setback in 2007 when all its nine legislators crossed over to the Congress. It was jolted again earlier this year when former MP and ‘saffron face of the Northeast’ Kiren Rijiju too joined the Congress.