New Delhi: The year-long political drama in Arunachal Pradesh is over. The Congress is returning to power today.
The newly elected Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Pema Khandu will be sworn in as the northeastern state’s 10th chief minister at noon, party sources said. With this, the state will see its third chief minister since the 2014 assembly elections. While Khandu, at 37, will be the youngest ever chief minister of the state, his fellow rebel Congress MLA Kalikho Pul will go down in the history as Arunachal’s most short-term chief minister. Pul, joined by 20 Congress MLAs, wrested power from chief minister Nabam Tuki in February this year under the aegies of a newly floated party – the People’s Party of Arunachal. The 11 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators offered the Pul government outside support to meet the halfway mark of 30 in the 60-member assembly.
On July 13, in response to a case filed by Tuki seeking redress, the Supreme Court reinstated him as chief minister. However, by then, Tuki was left with only 15 of the 47 MLAs he had the support of when he became chief minister in 2014. The acting state governor Tathagata Roy asked Tuki to take a floor test at 1 PM on July 16. But with clever manouevering, the Congress succeeded in bringing the rebel MLAs back in before the floor test. In the CLP meeting held on Saturday morning, Khandu, a minister in the Tuki government before joining the rebel camps headed by Pul, emerged as the consensus candidate.
With this move, the party finally heeded the rebel MLAs’ initial demand to remove Tuki as chief minister and replace him with a rebel MLA. Speaking to The Wire from Itanagar on Sunday morning, Tuki said, “The party is supreme. I have decided to step down in the interest of the party”. On Saturday morning, Tuki accompanied Khandu to Raj Bhavan along with Congress state in-charge Jayakumar.
Soon after meeting the governor, chief ministerial nominee Khandu told this correspondent, “Every MLA now wants to be under one roof. That is why I have the support of 44 Congress MLAs and two independents.” It is likely that both Pul and Tuki will stay out of the new cabinet. “Since they were already chief ministers, it would be improper to include them in my cabinet as ministers. I have worked under both of them. So both will continue to be my advisers,” Khandu said.
The fast-changing political scenario in the state is not only being widely looked at as a blow to the BJP which helped Pul grab power with the help of the “friendly” governor J.P. Rajkhowa, but also to Pul’s political ambition as the founder leader of the state’s only regional party – the PPA. Two days before returning to Congress, Pul pledged the support of his party to the BJP’s newly launched political alliance to make the Northeast “Congress mukt” by 2019 – the North East Democartic Alliance.