GUWAHATI: Pema Khandu, defected to the BJP on Saturday, which effectively made a saffron party government in the State.
Khandu, a former Congress leader, paraded the 33 of the 43 MLAs of the PPA before Assembly Speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok who recognised them as BJP members in a House of 60. This is the second BJP government in Northeast after the one in Assam. The high-voltage political drama came two days after Khandu and six PPA MLAs were suspended by party leadership for alleged anti-party activities, followed by the suspension of 12 more party MLAs on Saturday morning.
The defection of the 33 PPA MLAs took BJP’s tally to 45 in the House of 60. Two Independent MLAs are also extending their support to Khandu. The PPA is now left with just 10 MLAs while the Congress, which ruled Arunachal for a long time, has only three MLAs.
“We had submitted a list of the names of 33 MLAs, including that of mine, to the Speaker for merger with BJP and the Speaker accepted it,” Khandu told reporters in Itanagar. “Thus, it becomes a full-fledged BJP government. We all will work for stability and development of the State,” he asserted. Asked about the reason of their en bloc defection, Khandu said, “We were ill-treated. As such, we had no option but to join the BJP”.
The PPA has not yet spelt out its next move but it might move Governor (acting) V Shanmuganathan seeking his intervention. There is also a possibility that the party will challenge the merger and suspended Khandu’s continuance as chief minister in court.
“We’ll do what we should. Right now, we will not say anything. We will see. We gave them enough warnings and also suspended a few of them but they kept violating party diktats,” PPA chairman Kamen Ringu told Express. On Friday, he had accused Khandu and the other suspended MLAs of working against the interests of the PPA. The BJP said Khandu would continue as the CM. “It will be a strong BJP government now,” the party’s Arunachal unit president Tapir Gao said.
Addressing media persons, PPA president Kahfa Bengia criticised North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma for remaining a silent spectator during the political crisis. The PPA is a partner of NEDA.
Much before its Assam feat in May this year, the BJP had set its sights on politically-fragile Arunachal. The party has been up front, albeit behind the curtain, in the political unrest of the State in the past two years. During the power struggle between former CMs Nabam Tuki and the late Kalikho Pul, the Congress had accused the BJP of toppling the Tuki government by engineering split within the party.
In a State that has a history of political upheavals, speculations were rife the PPA MLAs’ defection to the BJP was only a matter of time. From the times of the State’s longest-serving Chief Minister Gegong Apang to Pema Khandu, most CMs had to battle with contenders. Leaving aside Apang who had served for nearly 23 years — 18 years on the trot — there has been, on an average, a change of CM in every 2 years.