ITANAGAR: In an electric development in India’s border state of Arunachal Pradesh, all but one of the 43 MLAs of the ruling Congress, including chief minister Pema Khandu, defected to the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA) on Friday.
This effectively converts the Congress government to a PPA one, which is aligned with the BJP. Khandu told reporters he has informed speaker Wangki Lowang that “we are merging the Congress with the PPA.”
This is only the latest turn in the topsy turvy politics of the border state this year.
Khandu became chief minister only two months ago when the Congress was restored to government after a series of twists and turns.
The only MLA remaining with the Congress now is Nabam Tuki, who was replaced as chief minister by Khandu back in July. That was done to stem a rebellion in the Congress ranks.
In the House of 60, Congress had until this development 47 MLAs, the BJP 11 with two Independents. The status of two Congress MLAs is uncertain as they put in their papers before the recent political developments.
“There is nothing to be surprised of. This is just homecoming for our PPA leaders,” PPA chief Kameng Ringu told Express. He rubbished speculations that the BJP, which was allegedly instrumental in dislodging the Tuki government, had a hand in the latest political development.
Sources said all the Congress MLAs, led by the chief minister, had huddled at a community hall near the Assembly secretariat in Naharlagun on Friday morning where they took the decision to defect to PPA.
The Arunachal rollercoaster ride started this year with the fall of the Congress government led by Nabam Tuki after party rebels colluded with the BJP and voted out Tuki in a special session held at a makeshift venue.
After a brief spell of central rule, Congress rebels led by Kalikho Pul took power with support from the BJP. But this shotgun regime lasted only five months. The Supreme Court reinstated the Congress government after nixing every decision that had precipitated its fall in January.
Pul subsequently was found dead in his home in August.
“At this juncture, it will be wrong to presume that the PPA MLAs will merge with the BJP. We know what Khandu is capable of and we are sure he will deliver it to the people of Arunachal,” Ringu said.
The development has not come as a surprise to many in the frontier state. Speculations were rife that Congress legislators’ joining the BJP was only a matter of time. Their going the PPA-way is perhaps a prelude to their eventual defection to the saffron party.
In New Delhi, Union minister Kiren Rijiju was fielded to face questions regarding the developments in Itanagar. He blamed them on internal dissent in the Congress.
Rijiju, who is from Arunachal Pradesh, said his party BJP had no role in the latest political developments.
“Congress MLAs including the chief minister of Arunachal are angry with their central leadership. They have to wait in Delhi for 4-5 days to meet their leaders. This has eventually led to the MLAs joining a regional party,” he told reporters.