Less than 15 days after taking oath of office, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul announced on Thursday evening that he, along with 29 other Members of Legislative Assembly, including Speaker Wangki Lowang, had broken away from Congress party to merge with the People’s Party of Arunachal.
Pul, a dissident Congress leader, was sworn in as the ninth chief minister of the state on February 19, a day after the Supreme Court vacated its interim order to maintain status quo in the state assembly, paving the way for government formation.
The Centre had revoked President’s Rule to allow Pul, a five-time MLA, to be sworn in as chief minister. Pul at that time had the support of only 18 of the 45 Congress MLAs in the assembly with an effective strength of 58. But he had shown the support of 13 opposition MLAs, including two Independents and 11 BJP MLAs to back his claim.
The All India Congress Committee had refused to recognise Pul as the Congress Legislature Party, or CLP, leader after he dethroned Nabam Tuki from the chief minister’s post, ending more than a year of power struggle, splitting the Congress party into two camps.
Prior to the assembly session on February 25, Pul was elected leader of the CLP, though the AICC had sent a notice asking Congress MLAs not to take part in the meeting.
The MLAs decide
“It is the MLAs who elect the legislative party. The AICC cannot decide on the leadership of the CLP from Delhi,” Pul said, addressing the media in Itanagar, soon after he defected from Congress.
Two Congress MLAs, who were earlier supporting Tuki, joined the Pul camp on Wednesday night, reducing the strength of the Congress party, led by Tuki, to 15 MLAs
“Now we have a PPA government with outside support from 11 BJP MLAs and two Independent members,” Pul claimed. “This is a people’s government, which is committed to work for the welfare of the state and its people.”
Formed in 1977, the People’s Party of Arunachal was shortly in power in 1979. It has had a steady presence in the assembly, winning five seats during the last elections in 2014. However, all its five MLAs had left the party to join the Congress party, only to come back.
The latest act in the series of continuing political moves in the state is being watched with suspicion. Many believe that this is a step forward to the formation of a Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, as it was crucial in dislodging the Tuki-led Congress government.
“Everything is rolling out as designed. The is being used as a ladder by Pul and his team,” said Professor Nani Baat of Rajiv Gandhi University in Itanagar.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, Union Mnister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, considered the face of the BJP in the Northeast, said he was offered the post of chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, but he declined as he did not want to get involved in state politics.