Congress loses Arunachal again as CM, MLAs defect

Itanagar, Sep 16 (IANS) In a dramatic development, the Congress lost its government in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday when Chief Minister Pema Khandu along with 42 MLAs defected to the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Two independents, supporting the Khandu-led Congress government, also joined the PPA — a member of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a recently formed anti-Congress alliance led by the BJP.

Khandu told reporters that he had informed Speaker Wangki Lowang that “we are merging the Congress with the PPA”. The merger was decided at a Congress Legislature Party meeting held on Friday morning.

PPA chairperson Kameng Ringu said the Congress MLAs joining his party was something waiting to happen.

“It is a homecoming after a temporary exile,” Ringu told IANS after the dramatic political development.

“Of the 46 MLAs supporting the government, 43 Congress MLAs including the Chief Minister and two Independents have joined the PPA,” he said.

Ringu said: “We have faith in Pema Khandu and his ability to provide a good PPA government.”

Pasang Dorjee Sona, a confidant of Chief Minister Khandu, told IANS: “There will be no swearing ceremony since it was only a change of party affiliation.”

Asked if the PPA would also rope in the BJP in the new government, Sona said: “It is up to them (BJP) to decide whether to be part of the PPA government.”

Meanwhile, the BJP said that the exodus of the 42 Congress legislators had vindicated its stand that it (BJP) did not meddle with the internal affairs of the Congress.

“They returned to the Congress last time mainly because of the Supreme Court order. Today (Friday) they have again left the Congress and merged with the PPA. It seems the Congress high command is totally neglecting its legislators in Arunachal,” BJP state President Tapir Gao told IANS.

“The BJP has nothing to do with this,” he added.

The Congress has 44 legislators in the house of 60. The only Congress MLA who has not defected is former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

Tuki was replaced as the Chief Minister in July when the Congress stemmed a rebellion in the party and made Khandu the head of the state government.

After the mass exodus from the Congress, the PPA has a strength of 45 legislators now. Besides, there are 11 BJP MLAs.

The sensitive border state has been reeling under a political crisis since December when then Governor J.P. Rajkhowa advanced the assembly session from January 14 to December 16.

The move triggered political unrest and finally led to the declaration of President’s Rule on January 26.

Khandu, son of former Chief Minister late Dorjee Khandu, became the ninth Chief Minister of the state after a July Supreme Court order reinstated the Congress government following months of political crisis.

Tuki’s government had collapsed after Congress rebels led by Kalikho Pul joined hands with the BJP and voted it out in a special session of the assembly.

After some months of President’s Rule, Pul took over as Chief Minister in February with BJP’s support.

Khandu was on July 17 unanimously elected the leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

Pul was found dead on August 9, weeks after he was forced to resign following the Supreme Court order.

–IANS

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