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Can rebel leader Kalikho Pul hold the Arunachal government together?

Rajeev Bhattacharyya | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:43 IST

Dissident Congress leader of Arunachal Pradesh Kalikho Pul is expected to be sworn in as Chief Minister today. He has ruled out resigning from the party and has justified seeking the support of the BJP and independent legislators to form the next government in the border state.

"We are not against the Congress. We will always remain in the party, but we are opposed to corruption and mis-governance as they have taken a heavy toll of our state," Pul told Catch News. "We have joined hands with all parties and legislators who have extended their support to us on these issues."

Read- Tribe trumps party: decoding the crisis in Arunachal Pradesh

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered a status quo in the hill state even as speculation was rife that the Centre would revoke President's Rule. The apex court's decision came only a day after it refused to restrain the Governor from swearing in of a new government in the state.

The Supreme Court will now examine the records pertaining to the disqualification of the 14 rebel Congress MLAs. It has directed the Gauhati High Court and Secretary General of Arunachal Pradesh assembly to provide the documents.

Earlier, Pul had paraded 31 MLAs in front of the governor, who have extended their support for the new government. These include 19 legislators from the Congress, 11 from the BJP and two independent members.


Arunachal Pradesh was placed under President's Rule on 26 January 2016, following a crisis that started brewing a month earlier when dissidents led by Pul revolted against Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

Also read- President's rule imposed in Arunachal Pradesh: 10 facts you must know

Early in December last year, the governor brought forward the winter session of the assembly and tabled a motion seeking removal of the incumbent speaker. Two days later, the government approached the Gauhati High Court seeking legal opinion on whether the governor could summon an assembly session without the recommendation of the cabinet.

The hill state has been crippled by the shifting loyalties of its politicians. In 2003, Gegong Apang toppled the Congress government of Mukut Mithi to form the first ever BJP government in the Northeast. Only a year later, he returned to the Congress ahead of the assembly polls in the state, but again joined the BJP two years ago.

According to political observers in Arunachal Pradesh, political instability has its roots in the ethnic configuration of the state. There are 26 major tribes and more than a hundred sub-tribes. Legislators from the eastern districts of Tirap, Changlang, Anjaw and Lohit have often complained of being neglected by the political leadership in the state.

Read more: If #ArunachalCrisis is a T20 match, the umpire just ruined it for the BJP

Loyalty to the tribe often takes precedence over that of the party, which is true for almost all the hill regions in the Northeast. In the current crisis, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki is a Nyishi, but Pul is a Mishmi from Lohit district in the eastern region. Leaders of some tribes who have been complaining of nepotism against the former Chief Minister, have allegedly extended their support for the new government.

It remains to be seen if Pul would be able to keep the flock together at a time when the BJP has also begun serious efforts to expand base in the border state. It is a long way to the next assembly polls in 2019 and the possibility of political equations changing in Arunachal Pradesh cannot be ruled out.

Edited by Anna Verghese

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First published: 19 February 2016, 10:51 IST
Rajeev Bhattacharyya

Rajeev is a senior journalist in Guwahati and author of 'Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey to Meet India's Most Wanted Men'.