Arunachal drama: Suspended Pema Khandu claims support of 49 MLAs

Politics in Arunachal Pradesh is all about the chair and the race for the same. As a fresh political drama unfolded in the eastern state after chief minister Pema Khandu was suspended from Peoples’ Party of Arunachal along with six other MLAs, his government on December 30, 2016 claimed majority support. The BJP backed Khandu but the PPA said there will be a change in leadership.

The Pema Khandu government claimed support of 49 of the 60 MLAs, including 35 of Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) legislators, a day after the chief minister, deputy chief minister and four other MLAs were suspended from PPA.

Government spokesperson Bamang Felix claimed that 35 out of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed their faith and allegiance in the leadership of Khandu.

“We have support of 49 MLAs, including 35 PPA, 12 BJP along with one associate BJP member and one independent,” he claimed at a press conference in Itanagar. “Everything is normal and the chief minister is still enjoying absolute majority from PPA, BJP and independent MLAs,” he said in response to queries.

The PPA, which has altogether 43 MLAs, had last night temporarily suspended Khandu, deputy chief minister Chowna Mein and five other MLAs from the primary membership of the party for alleged “anti-party activities”.

Stating that there was no question of change in leadership, Felix said, “We are looking at the legal aspects of the suspension of seven MLAs, including Khandu.”

“The PPA is not a single-man party. Whatever decision was taken by the party’s president Kahfa Bengia was his own. We are trying to sort out the differences among the party MLAs and our door is open for all,” the spokesman added.

Responding to a query on BJP’s claim that process is on for the PPA MLAs to join it, Felix said that since PPA is an alliance partner of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) government “no such question arises”.

The BJP during the day made it clear that it will “only” support the Khandu government in the state and “will never” support any other chief minister.

Bengia on his part said that Takam Pario, PHED Minister, is likely to be the next chief minister.

“The sudden decision of the PPA is not acceptable to us as they have never discussed with us. In the interest of development of the state and its people, the BJP cannot be a party to change of government every six months,” BJP legislature party leader Tamiyo Taga told a press conference.

Taga, who is also the Textile and Handicraft minister, added that the party has decided to support Khandu on the Floor of the Assembly if the Governor issues directives for a floor test.

Khandu broke away from the Congress along with 42 lawmakers in September this year, managing a coup that suddenly left the party out of power in the State.

Arunachal has been battling political instability since December last year when Congress dissidents revolted against former chief minister Nabam Tuki.

After a series of dramatic developments, which included a special session held at a hotel to vote out Tuki, Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became chief minister in February with the help of 11 BJP lawmakers. The Congress then moved the Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s government. But Tuki was out within days as he did not enjoy a majority in the 60-member Assembly.

Pul, who insisted that he be reinstated as chief minister, was left alone in the last minute when lawmakers supposedly backing him shifted their loyalties to Khandu. Pul committed suicide in August and a month later, Khandu walked out of Congress with 42 lawmakers and joined the PPA.

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