Governor at the root of Arunachal crisis

The frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh is facing a huge political turmoil which till now has been very dramatic.

The dissident ruling Congress lawmakers, 21 one of them to be precise, joined hands with 11 BJP and two independent MLAs to bring down an elected government led by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

It seems that certain actions by Governor J P Rajkhowa might have aided the process of “impeaching” the Speaker and passing a “no-confidence” motion against Tuki.

The ruling Congress was quick to call it a BJP ploy to topple their government, impose President’s rule and later form its own government with the help of Congress rebels. But all these acts of political one-upmanship have fallen flat with the battle entering the Gauhati High Court. Through two different orders, the court put a cap on the developments till February 1.

The situation, however, is not new to Indian politics or Arunachal Pradesh.
While Tuki is facing growing dissidence for nearly a year now, the differences between the governor, chief minister and his loyalist have also been catching pace in the past few months.

The trigger was set off in October when certain correspondences relating to the proposed airport in the state was leaked to the media by government sources in which Rajkhowa urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the decision in view of the “high cost”.

He also alleged that Tuki and his family will benefit financially from the contracts. Tuki’s allegation against the governor is that Rajkhowa is working like a BJP agent.

Arunachal Pradesh has been in the news for tales of toppling and political musical chair. In 1999, Mukut Mithi took on the longest serving chief minister Gegong Apang and toppled his government. Apang again paid back Mithi. In 2003, Apang led a coup against Mithi and toppled his government.

Again Apang was toppled by Dorjee Khandu. Khandu, however, did not fight any dissidence till his sudden demise in a chopper crash. After Khandu, Garbom Gamlin became the chief minister and within six months, his government was toppled by Tuki.

Now, Tuki finds himself outnumbered with a dissidence led by senior Congress leader Kalikho Pul. The dissidence camp has been saying that they are not backed by the BJP and that their fight is against ineffective governance and unsatisfactory political leadership.

The hill state has 26 major tribes and around a hundred sub-tribes. Like some other states in the North-East, tribal loyalties are stronger than party loyalties.

Perhaps, the problem lies with the tribal nature of politics in the state. For any politician, his electorate is his own community or clan, thus clan loyalty is far more important than party or political ideology.

As chief minister, Tuki not only has to keep his own Nyishi tribe happy but also  accommodate leaders from other tribes.

For example, Apang belongs to the Adi tribe and his long reign of over two decades created resentment among some bigger tribes like the Nyishis. Now the dissident group leader Pul is a from Mishmi tribe which has not been in power for long, so naturally, his tribe will be rallying behind him.

Lengthy fight ahead
In fact, North-East poster boy in the Modi Cabinet, the Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, has in his political career switched from the BJP to the Congress and back to the BJP again, an indication that in Arunachal Pradesh politics, only those survive who are flexible.

But this time around, the situation is graver than ever. First, the involvement of the governor’s office and the court has made it very uncertain. Both camps have engaged top lawyers so the fight will be a lengthy one.

There are two very disturbing fall outs of this controversy. The fact that the governor’s office is getting more politically involved is not a healthy sign for an unbiased democratic process, and the dissidence has led to complete break down in governance with MLAs, ministers, and even the chief minister, busy fighting one another.

Many observers believe that the governor must have been aware of the history of political toppling in the state. He ought to have stayed away from this dirty game.

Many believe that he should have consulted the chief minister before advancing the winter session of the Assembly and should have asked Tuki to prove his numbers. Not only has the governor lost the trust of an elected government, but he has set a bad precedence by creating a parallel administration of sorts.

If one looks at the turn of events after the governor called for the session — the government locking down the Legislature complex; the Speaker disqualifying 14 out of the 21 dissident Congress MLAs; the retaliatory act of the deputy speaker to revoke their disqualification and hosting Assembly session in a community hall and hotel conference halls — have all made a mockery of the democratic set up.

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