Politics

As New CM Takes Charge in Arunachal, the Man Ousted Says He’ll Be Back

The battle for power in Arunachal Pradesh continues. on Saturday, evicted chief minister Nabam Tuki paraded 23 MLAs in front of Delhi media

Nabam Tuki parading his MLAs at the press club. Credit: Special Arrangement

Nabam Tuki parading his MLAs at the press club. Credit: Special Arrangement

New Delhi: The last act of the Arunachal political drama is not over. Barely 12 hours after Congress dissident legislator Kalikho Pul was sworn in as chief minister in Itanagar on Friday,the man he unseated, Nabam Tuki, paraded 23 party MLAs at a media conference in the national capital to show he still has a majority in the state assembly that Governor J P. Rajkhowa did not give him the opportunity to prove in a floor test.

Tuki said the swearing in of Pul was yet another example of the “governor-BJP conspiracy” in the state.

“As soon as the news came that president’s rule was lifted, I sent a written request to the governor to invite me to form a government as I still have the majority. Usually, a governor calls the group which has the majority. Knowing that he has been partial in his approach, I also urged him to call for a test on the floor of the house, which is the usual process. Yet, he decided to swear in Pul who doesn’t have the numbers with him and is facing disqualification under the 10th schedule of the constitution, a case regarding which is presently on at the Gauhati high court.” Tuki told the media gathered at the Press Club of India that he also sent a copy of the letter, staking his claim to form a government, to the President Pranab Mukherjee’s office.

The state Congress leader accused the Narendra Modi government at the Centre of “murdering the constitution and disregarding the judiciary”. The Arunachal assembly has 60 seats. Though 14 legislators have rebelled against his leadership and have now allied with the BJP, Tuki told Rajkhow that the Congress officially still has 45 MLAs.

“I ask, why was the governor in such a hurry to swear in Pul at 10 in the night? What was the emergency? Could he not have waited till the Gauhati high court decision on the disqualification issue of the 14 MLAs which the Supreme Court asked that court to finish within two weeks’ time?”

Later, in an interview to The Wire, Tuki predicted by-elections in the state soon and said he would be back in the saddle soon. Excerpts:

Former chief minister Nbam Tuki. Credit: Nabamtuki.org

Former chief minister Nabam Tuki. Credit: Nabamtuki.org

How many MLAs do you have with you at present?   

I have the support of 25 Congress legislators. While 23 of them accompanied me to the press meet today, two are not in Delhi. One is in Chennai on personal work, the other MLA is in her home town, Dambuk.

So you are saying you still have the majority.

Yes. That is why I sent a letter to Raj Bhavan last night as soon as the news came that president’s rule has been lifted from the state. My assistant got acknowledgement from the office of the governor at 9 p.m. of receiving the faxed letter and yet he ignored it and called in Pul to swear in as the CM at 10 p.m. He called Pul because he didn’t want to give me a chance to stake claim to form a government. This is violation of the due process as per the constitution. Ideally, the Congress legislative party chooses a leader who is then invited by the governor to form the government, which was not the case here. He instead called someone who has been ousted by the party. Pul may continue to say he is from the Congress but how can he form a government and decide to take support from another party without the go ahead of the party leadership? The governor basically formed a government by taking some dissident members of the ruling party and some from the opposition though the ruling party has the majority even without the dissidents. I ask, where in the constitution is this allowed? Where is the opposition in a democracy? If this is not the violation of the constitution, then what is?

Kalikho Pul has been saying that he is still a Congressman, has no problem with the party but with your leadership. He also accuses you of corruption.

If he had an issue with me, he should have told me that. I didn’t accept his resignation twice and wanted him to remain in my government. But when he openly began hobnobbing with the party’s arch rival BJP and began conspiring to overthrow the government of his party, I had no choice but to drop him from my cabinet in December 2014 and thereafter the Arunachal State Pradesh Congress (APCC) expelled him from the party. He is highlighting his so-called love for Congress only because he doesn’t have the numbers with him as per the 10th schedule of the constitution to break away from the party and form a new group.

As far as his corruption charges are concerned, they are wild allegations. Tell me, which state government doesn’t take overdrafts? Last year, the Central government took overdrafts twice from the Reserve Bank of India. There is a procedure in the RBI for it and at times it also stops payment. Once the requirements are fulfilled, it lifts it. That is what happened in Arunachal too. By the way, when Pul and his legislators were camping in New Delhi to topple my government, the Union minister of state  for finance, Jayant Sinha visited Arunachal and made a statement that it is one of the best financially managed states. Last August, the Niti Ayog also named Arunachal as the best financially managed state. We got an award from the India Today Group also on that count. Pul’s is a baseless, trumped-up charge.

You may not call Pul a Congressman but he has a stay from the Gauhati high court on your expulsion order.

Expulsion of a member is a party affair and the party has already expelled him. So he ceases to be a Congress member anyway.

The governor also accused you of hobnobbing with the banned armed group, NSCN (Khaplang).

This is a part of the conspiracy against me. The governor has been trying to set the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after me. In fact, just after president’s rule was clamped on the state, the governor said that all allegations of corruption will be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the criminal charges to the NIA. According to my sources, police officials and other bureaucrats are being pressured by the governor to file complaints against me so that he can order a probe.

Now that the Pul government has been formed, what is your next step?

I have belief in the constitution and the judiciary. I shall wait for the Gauhati high court verdict which is to come in two weeks. Also, the Supreme Court is hearing on a daily basis the case against the governor’s decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015. Hopefully, the verdict should come by Monday.

What happens if the court gives the verdict in your favour, or otherwise?

If the HC disqualifies the 14 MLAs, which includes Pul, from the assembly, then his government ceases to exist. In that case, the Governor will have to call me to form the government as I still have the majority. There will be by-elections in those 14 seats.

If the court refuses to disqualify those MLAs, even then there will be a by-election because they are disqualified anyway under the 10th schedule of the constitution, which says a group will have to have a two third majority to separate itself from the mother group. Else, it loses the right to be members of the house. Since Pul doesn’t have the numbers, he is trying hard to convince my MLAs to side with him. They are receiving calls from his group almost every day with enticements like a cabinet berth, money, etc. Till now, he has not been able to break anyone though.

You also accuse Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, also from Arunachal, of instigating Pul to act against your government.

He is the man controlling Pul. Because of him, the Centre is going the extra mile to misuse the constitution like this. Even if the national media overlooks it, it is an attempt by the Modi government to try out a model of overthrowing an elected government by bypassing the constitution. An aware media will flag it. That way, Arunachal has become the NDA government’s laboratory. And if any person who believes in the constitution of the country and our federal set up doesn’t oppose it, it will soon be a model of the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to try it out in other states.