GUWAHATI: The prospects of getting greater Central support for the state’s development by sailing alongside BJP apparently made all Arunachal Congress MLAs, except former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, defect to the regional People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) on Friday.
Citing a key reason behind the en bloc defection of the ruling party MLAs, Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein said, “For a cash-starved state like Arunachal, it is necessary to be with a bigger party to get more development funds from the Centre”.
“There is a huge cumulative deficit of Rs 3,700 crore which the state government inherited. Then, there are regional aspirations,” Mein said.
Arunachal has a history of such political development. In 2003, all MLAs of the then ruling United Democratic Front, which was a coalition of former Chief Minister Gegong Apang’s Arunachal Congress and some other parties, had merged with the BJP.
The PPA is a constituent of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) where the BJP calls the shots. There was a perception among the Congress MLAs that sailing alongside the BJP would help the state get greater Central grants.
The BJP had extended outside support to former Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s PPA government when he was in power for around five months until he was ousted following a Supreme Court judgment that reinstated the Tuki-led Congress government.
In the 60-member Arunachal House, which now has an effective strength of 57, 43 of the 44 Congress MLAs, including Chief Minister Pema Khandu, defected to PPA. Two Congress MLAs had “resigned” earlier and Pul was found dead in an alleged suicide attempt last month. The BJP has 11 legislators and there are two independent MLAs.
Friday’s development has not come as a surprise to many in the politically-instable state. Speculations were rife that the Congress MLAs’ going BJP-way was only a matter of time. Their defection to PPA is perhaps the prelude to their eventual defection to the saffron party.
The Congress accused the BJP of engineering the en bloc defection of its MLAs, a charge which the latter dismissed outright.
“The BJP was not in the loop. It didn’t engineer the defection as alleged by the Congress,” BJP leader and Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the convenor of NEDA, told reporters in Guwahati.
NEDA is a conglomerate of non-Congress political parties in the Northeast. Apparently, the BJP entrusted Sarma to take the lead in ridding the Northeast of the Congress.
Sarma said it was only after the MLAs were paraded before the Speaker and he issued a gazette pertaining to the Congress MLAs’ merger with PPA that Khandu had broken the news to him over the phone.
Khandu will now enjoy the support of 56 MLAs including 43 from PPA, 11 from BJP and two independents. Sarma said with that number, PPA would be able to provide a stable government. He also said the BJP would extend outside support to the PPA government, which it did during Pul’s stint.
“PPA is a part of NEDA. As such, it is obligatory for BJP to extend outside support to PPA,” he said.
Asked about BJP’s participation in the government, Sarma said: “As of now, there is no such instruction (from the BJP leadership). Similarly, PPA also doesn’t have any move to merge with BJP”.
The PPA under Pul had grabbed power for the first time in February and ruled for five months until being ousted following the apex court judgment.
During the height of dissidence against Tuki, Pul and 30 other Congress MLAs had defected to PPA, leading to the installation of the PPA government.
“There is nothing to be surprised of. This is just homecoming for our PPA leaders,” PPA chief Kameng Ringu told Express. He too rubbished speculations that the BJP, which was allegedly instrumental in dislodging the Tuki government, had a hand in the latest political development.