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Arunachal govt in trouble: 22 Cong MLAs align with BJP, party blames Centre

Panini Anand | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

The numbers

  • In the 60-member Arunachal Pradesh assembly, the Congress has 47 MLAs and the BJP has 11
  • As many as 22 Cong MLAs are now protesting against CM Nabam Tuki\'s \'autocratic\' style

The ouster

  • On Wednesday, 33 MLAs voted to impeach the speaker, Nabam Rebia
  • Deputy Speaker TN Thongdok called the session outside the assembly
  • The CM and his supporters boycotted the session and sealed the assembly premises

More in the story

  • The role of Governor JP Rajkhowa - did he overstep the Constitution?
  • Why did Cong submit a memorandum to the President, alleging Centre\'s involvement?

There's a political crisis brewing in Arunachal Pradesh for the Congress. Its chances of saving the Nabam Tuki-led government look very slim, with as many as 22 of its 47 sitting MLAs apparently shifting allegiance to the BJP.

On Wednesday, 16 December, in an extraordinary development, an assembly session was "forced to be conducted" outside the assembly house, because MLAs were not allowed to enter it.

Deputy speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok oversaw a vote on an appeasement motion against the speaker, Nabam Rebia, and 33 of the 60 MLAs voted to impeach him. This included the 11 BJP MLAs in the state.

In the 60-member house, Congress has 47 MLAs while BJP has 11. There are two independents too

The BJP has also moved a no-confidence motion against the state government, which is expected to be discussed and brought up for a vote on Thursday or Friday, and appears likely to end with the fall of the Tuki government.

The rumblings in Itanagar seem to be having a direct impact on the Centre too. The Congress, which has been trying to corner the Narendra Modi government on various issues, which it terms as 'vendetta' and 'victimisation' by the BJP, stalled the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Internal dissent and the Governor's role

The trouble began early in November, when the dissident Congress MLAs announced they were abstaining from a legislature party meeting and blamed the CM's 'autocratic' style of functioning for it.

Dissident MLAs blamed CM Nabam Tuki's 'autocratic' functioning and refused to attend a Nov meeting

On 9 December, Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa issued an order under Article 174(1) of the Constitution, bringing forward the sixth session of the state assembly by almost a month, without informing the CM and the state cabinet.

The session was to commence on 14 January 2016, and the Congress alleges that the order was issued at the insistence of BJP MLAs who had, on 9 November, submitted a resolution for the removal of the speaker.

Also read: What political vendetta! Congress looks more like a spoilt brat

The Congress also alleges that the Governor, without the knowledge of the CM or Arunachal's Home Minister, requisitioned Central forces to be deployed in the state. The Governor, on the other hand, has defended his actions by saying that the state's cabinet ministers threatened and abused him in the Raj Bhavan on Tuesday. He says he was rescued by security personnel, who escorted him to safety.

Incidentally, the Central minister in charge of the Northeast is MoS Home Kiren Rijiju, a BJP MP from Arunachal.

But it must be mentioned here that as law and order is a state matter, it seems the governor has violated the Constitution by bypassing the state government.

BJP bullish

Reports emanating from Itanagar state that deputy speaker Thongdok had to arrange for alternate premises for the session on Wednesday because the CM and his supporters had decided to boycott the session and seal the assembly premises.

After the vote, ousted speaker Rebia called the session and the vote 'unconstitutional'.

The BJP, on the other hand, is bullish about things at the moment. In the 60-member assembly, it only had 11 MLAs. But now, with as many as 22 of the 47 Congress MLAs joining hands with it to remove the speaker, it seems to have the numbers in its favour.

What's more, the anti-defection law states that if more than 1/3rd of the elected members from one party defect to another, they won't be disqualified. This is why its chances of being called up to form the government soon are looking bright.

"This is a minority government in the state. There are as many as 22 dissident MLAs of the Congress, which means CM Tuki has only 25 MLAs, which is far less than the clear majority to continue in office," Tapir Gao, a former BJP MP, told Catch.

"There is a lot of infighting in the party. The government is unstable. Continuing with it means nothing can be passed and done in the state. The state is in a political crisis for the last three months owing to the Congress and the state government. Their cry that the BJP is making them 'unstable' is merely to hide the crisis within."

Memorandum to the President

In Delhi, meanwhile, a delegation led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi met President Pranab Mukherjee and gave a memorandum blaming the Centre and the Governor for 'conspiring against the state government'.

Also read: Cong march to Rashtrapati Bhavan, submit memorandum on intolerance to President

The memorandum, signed by Congress leaders states: "The BJP top leadership, in connivance with some dissident Congress MLAs, planned to destabilise the democratically-elected Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh. This is obviously a pre-planned design involving the highest functionaries of the Central government in this unprincipled enterprise."

The Congress memorandum to the President alleged it was the Centre's design to overthrow the govt

Expressing its disappointment over the 'misuse of the office by the Governor', the party said: "It seems that the Governor, at the behest of the Central government, along with those Congress MLAs enticed to defect to the BJP, are using unconstitutional means in seeking to oust the democratically elected government of Arunachal Pradesh."

If the Tuki government in Arunachal does lose the no-confidence motion, the Governor can suspend it and invite the BJP and the Congress dissidents to form the government. If this happens, this will be another big blow to the Congress in the Northeast, after all its eight MLAs in Nagaland defected to the ruling Naga People's Party in November.

The Congress looks helpless in Arunachal, at the moment. All it seems able to do is blame the Centre and scream 'vendetta'. The memorandum is clearly an attempt to make it a big issue in the Rajya Sabha, where the Modi government is facing similar allegations by some other state governments and opposition parties.

First published: 17 December 2015, 8:38 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.