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Reinstated by SC as Arunachal CM, Tuki seems clueless about future

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement on Wednesday, directing that the state of Arunachal Pradesh should return to status quo ante (as things were) on 15 December 2015. This effectively reinstates Congress's Nabam Tuki at the Chief Minister of the state.

But Tuki seemed clueless on the future course of action. The feeling of being reinstated didn't seem to have sunk in.

"I will seek legal opinion on what needs to be done, and then go back to Itanagar to take control. I will rush and take control," he told reporters in a very unconvincing tone on Wednesday.

Asked about the floor test that the Supreme Court has ordered, he said: "Vote of confidence is the natural way of proving one's majority."

But, with numbers not on his side, he is weighing his options, and claims to be in touch with rebel Congress legislators, including the SC-ousted Chief Minister, Kalikho Pul, to reconsider their decision.

"Pul was a minister in my government, and as per the Supreme Court's order, he is still very much part of the Congress family. I will request him to work with me," Tuki said.

Pul, too, is seeking legal opinion before filing a review petition in the Supreme Court, and has claimed there is no threat to his government. He added: "The government is run by numbers. The court doesn't run the government, numbers do. My government will remain."

Surprise for Congress?

The Supreme Court judgement in its favour seemed to come as a surprise for the Congress, which had all but given up hope of making any sort of comeback in the state.

Tuki himself was unsure of when he would return home, and sounded unconvincing about taking charge. According to him, once back in Itanagar, he would convene a cabinet meeting and decide when to hold the next Assembly elections, which hold the key to his political fate.

Braving the intense humidity and drenched in sweat, Tuki didn't have any concrete answers about his next move, and how he intended to deal with the rebels who toppled his government.

Nevertheless, Tuki flashed the victory sign, and held a marathon session with reporters at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi, answering a volley of questions.

Having been on the margins of the state's politics for almost six months after Governor JP Rajkhowa imposed President's Rule on 26 January, Tuki said the real challenge lay ahead.

He focussed on attacking the BJP government at the Centre, and said the verdict was a 'victory for democracy'. "Democracy has been strengthened today. It is not just my victory, but also that of democracy," he said.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal added: "When the (Assembly) session meets, we will see what happens. The political message to them (rebels) would be that you are part of our family."

The numbers game

Tuki has every reason to be worried. If status quo ante is restored, the 60-member Arunachal Assembly would have 43 members opposed to Tuki (30 from Pul's People's Party of Arunachal, 11 from the BJP and two independents).

That means only 15 members would support Tuki, of which, Pul claims that 10 are just waiting to switch sides. In these circumstances, Tuki's chances of survival look really bleak.

Concerned with the challenges that lie ahead, the Congress too issued caution to those rejoicing the verdict. "We should celebrate, but not go overboard, considering we still have to go prove the majority, and the odds are not in our favour," said a Congress leader.

Congress's demands

Meanwhile, the Congress, through Sibal's press conference, sought the resignation of Governor Rajkhowa, saying it will "ask for him to be dismissed from both outside and inside Parliament".

Interestingly, the Congress mentioned a tape-recorded conversation that it said "points a needle of suspicion towards the Prime Minister of India as well as the Home Minister".

Sibal said the conversation had been produced both in the high court and the Supreme Court, and "we would like both these authorities to explain their position in Parliament".

He also sought an immediate investigation in to this tape-recorded conversation and said: "Considering the alacrity with which the BJP started investigating an alleged sting operation in Uttarakhand in respect of Mr (Harish) Rawat, I am sure that they should, with the same alacrity, investigate the taped conversations that I have referred to."

Plans for Parliament, and Gandhis' reactions

The judgement has come as shot in the arm for the Congress, just five days before the Monsoon session of Parliament. Senior Congress leaders didn't rule out the possibility of derailing the BJP's plans of passing the GST Bill in these circumstances.

In a statement, Congress president Sonia Gandhi welcomed the historic verdict, "reinstating the democratically-elected and unconstitutionally-removed government in Arunachal Pradesh".

She hoped that the judgement would deter the Union government from any further misuse of power. "Those who had trampled upon constitutional propriety and democratic norms have been defeated today," read the statement.

Taking a pot shot at Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in a tweet from his official account, thanked the apex court for "explaining to the Prime Minister what democracy is".

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 13 July 2016, 10:29 IST