Arunachal Pradesh crisis: How a rebellion spun out of control

With Pranab Mukherjee clearing President’s rule in the state, a look at how a group of rebel MLAs and an Assembly session held in a community hall led to the present situation

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Updated: January 27, 2016 1:10 pm
arunachal pradesh, arunachal pradesh president rule, president rule arunachal pradesh, arunachal news, arunachal rule, arunachal president rule, arunachal emergency, india news Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and Governor J P Rajkhowa

What is this crisis about?

On December 9, a group of rebel Congress MLAs approached Governor J P Rajkhowa, seeking to impeach Assembly Speaker Nabam Rebia. The rebel MLAs were upset with Rebia, who is a cousin of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and seen as being in his camp, because they said he was trying to get them disqualified from the Assembly. Though the Assembly was not in session, Governor Rajkhowa agreed it was an urgent matter. Since the Assembly was originally slated to convene only on January 14, the Governor called for an emergency session of the Assembly on December 16, 2015, to take up the impeachment motion. As the Congress approached the High Court and later the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court against the Governor’s convening of the special session, the Centre called for President’s rule in the state under Article 356 of the Constitution. The Congress cried foul, saying this was the first instance of Article 356 being imposed while the case was being heard in court.

What happened during the special Assembly session?

On December 16, the special session of the House was held in a community hall as the government and Speaker prevented the session from being held in the Assembly. Deputy Speaker T N Thongdok, believed to be on the anti-Tuki side, presided over the special session that was attended by 20 rebel Congress MLAs (of the total 42), 11 BJP MLAs and two Independents. The rebels, along with the 13 others, passed the impeachment motion. The special session also moved a no-confidence motion against CM Tuki.

At the end of the session, Tuki was ‘defeated’ in a floor test and the ‘House’ ‘elected’ Kalikho Pul as the new Leader of the House. The same day, the Speaker issued an order disqualifying 14 rebel Congress MLAs. The following day, Speaker Rebia moved the High Court. On January 5, 2015, Justice B K Sarma of the Gauhati High Court stayed the disqualification of the 14 Congress MLAs. The Speaker’s plea for his case to be heard in another court was turned down, prompting him to approach the Supreme Court.

What is the present status of the case?

On January 15, the apex court referred the entire batch of petitions filed by the Speaker against the Deputy Speaker and others to a Constitution Bench, which is now examining the scope of the discretionary powers of the Governor. That’s when the Centre moved to impose Article 356.

Does Arunachal Pradesh have a history of instability?

Rebellions against the incumbent have been a recurring feature of governments in the state since the time of Gegong Apang, when rebel leader Mukut Mithi pulled the rug from under the CM’s feet on January 18, 1999, seven years after he had failed in his first attempt. Similar attempts were made when Dorjee Khandu was CM, but he was killed in a chopper crash in May 2011. Present CM Tuki had come to power in November 2011 after Jarbom Gamlin had to quit in the wake of a serious law and order situation that subsided immediately after the change.

When did CM Tuki’s troubles begin?

Though Tuki led the Congress to a remarkable victory in the Assembly election, he had to drop and induct ministers very often in order to quell rebellion within the Congress Legislature Party (CLP). In December 2014 , Tuki dropped veteran minister Kalikho Pul and got him expelled him from the Congress. But his mounting problems coincided with the Centre appointing former Assam chief secretary J P Rajkhowa as Governor on June 1, 2015. On October 6, 2015, two young rebel Congress MLAs Gabriel Denwang Wangsu and Wanglam Sawin resigned from the Assembly, but later alleged that their resignation letter was fake and that they had been forced to sign it during a dinner at the CM’s residence. Two days later, Tuki dropped four senior ministers. Two weeks later, another minister, Pema Khandu, resigned after accusing Tuki of being “inefficient”. By then, Tuki had already developed a strained relationship with Governor Rajkhowa and almost half his MLAs were against him.

The Congress has accused Rajkhowa of overstepping his constitutional authority. How justified is that charge?

As a bureaucrat, Rajkhowa is known as someone who always went by the rule-book. In September 2015, Rajkhowa wrote to the PM, accusing Tuki and Speaker Rebia of owning land in a plot selected for an airport, where, he alleged, they would make financial gains. In the present case, Rajkhowa allegedly called the special session without taking the CM and his ministers into confidence. He has, however, maintained that he went purely by the Constitution.
What’s the BJP’s role in the crisis?

MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju has said the BJP is not interested in forming a government. Till last week, the Congress rebels claimed they were still with the party.