Arunachal Pradesh's political cauldron is back on the boil. Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who was sworn in in July and again in September, has been suspended from the ruling People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) for indiscipline.
Along with Khandu, Deputy Chief Minister Chow Tewa Mein and five other MLAs were also suspended for allegedly pursuing the BJP's agenda in the state.
Khandu, India's youngest Chief Minister, is set to be replaced by 41-year-old Takam Pario, who also happens to be the state's richest MLA. Pario has support of the PPA legislators and will soon be sworn in as the 10th CM of the Northeastern state.
Meanwhile, Khandu has claimed majority support of the PPA-BJP legislators, adding to yet another twist to the deepening political crisis in the state.
Interestingly, in the last one year, Arunachal has witnessed three CMs taking oath, with one of them, Kalikho Pul, even committing suicide.
However, recent developments suggest that all is not well with the BJP-PPA alliance, which stormed to power after 43 Congress legislators rebelled and joined the PPA earlier this year.
With the BJP firmly backing Khandu, the political crisis is likely to escalate further in days to come.
PPA leaders allege that Khandu wants the party to merge with the BJP, which is not acceptable to many legislators in the party.
Ever since the BJP won the Assembly elections in Assam, it has been aggressively pushing the idea of Congress-free Northeast, and is desperately trying to topple democratically-elected governments in the region.
Backed by the BJP, Khandu, too, is planning to initiate a legal fight-back, and even mobilise support from sitting legislators. To retain his Chief Ministerial berth, Khandu needs the support of 31 legislators in the 60-member house.
Reacting to these developments, PPA chief Kaling Jerang has gone on record to say how Khandu has failed to meet expectations, and that ever since he joined the PPA, he has never visited the party office. He went on to add how the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA), floated by the BJP, was ignoring the PPA while promoting only Khandu and others.
Congress's wait-and-watch approach
The political instability in Arunachal first surfaced in December 2015, when Congress legislators revolted against then-CM Nabam Tuki. Consequently, in February 2016, the rebel faction led by Pul assumed power with the help of 11 BJP legislators, leading to the Congress moving the courts against the new government.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, restored the Tuki-led Congress government, and since the Chief Minister didn't enjoy a majority, he was forced to let Khandu take charge. Barely a month after he was sworn in, Khandu surprised everyone and joined the PPA with 42 MLAs, leaving only Tuki in the Congress's fold.
Tuki told Catch that differences within the PPA were on expected lines.
"There are so many legislators who have huge ambitions, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. One has to wait and watch to see how the PPA would break apart in days to come," he said.
Tuki went on to add that the Congress leadership is just watching the developments from the sidelines, and is waiting for the decision of the Gauhati High Court. Earlier in November, Arunachal PCC chief Padi Richo filed a writ petition against the validity of the merger of the Congress's state unit with the PPA.
In his petition, Richo had argued that the laws laid out by the Election Commission did not permit the merger of the state unit of a national party to a state party. "Let notice of motion be issued calling upon the respondents to show cause as to why a rule should not be issued as prayed for, and/or why such further orders or other orders should not be passed as to this court may deem fit and proper. The notice is made returnable by January 4, 2017," said Justice Michael Zothankhuma while hearing the petition.
The Congress is waiting for the court's ruling on 4 January, and is hopeful that it will be favourable for the party. "The matter is currently sub-judice, so there is no point talking about whether the Congress is in touch with those who joined the PPA in September this year. However, we are in touch with some of the PPA legislators, since they were Congressmen who were elected on the party ticket," said Tuki.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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