Dissident Congress leader Kalikho Pul, 46, was sworn in as the ninth Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh on Friday with the support of 18 rebel Congress MLAs, and two Independents and 11 BJP MLAs who gave outside support.
The Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee, meanwhile, claimed that Pul and 18 other dissidents were no longer its members. Pul’s swearing-in came a day after the Supreme Court vacated its interim order to maintain status quo in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly, paving the way for government formation. The Centre had revoked President’s Rule in the state before Governor J P Rajkhowa administered the oath of office to Pul around 9.30 pm.
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On Wednesday, Pul, a five-time MLA and former finance minister, had led a delegation of 31 MLAs and met Rajkhowa in Itanagar to stake claim to form the government. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected the plea of Congress leaders seeking direction that it be allowed to go in for a floor test in the assembly to prove majority.
Pul has the support of only 18 of the 45 Congress MLAs in the assembly. But 13 opposition MLAs — two Independents and 11 from the BJP — have given in writing to the Governor that they back him. Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Padi Richo, however, said Tuki is still the Congress Legislative Party leader with 25 MLAs supporting him, and that the 19 dissidents have ceased to be Congress members.
Pul belongs to the Kaman Mishmi community, which has about 2,500 members in Anjaw district, which shares the international boundary with China.
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Pul’s rise to the post of Chief Minister was preceded by a series of developments, which began with the Governor summoning the state assembly without consulting the cabinet and the Speaker in December last year. While the opposition BJP had moved an impeachment motion against the Speaker, he refused to let the opposition and the dissident Congress faction enter the Assembly premises. This led the deputy speaker to hold the session on December 16 in a community hall and, the next day, in a hotel.
While 25 Congress MLAs supporting Tuki had abstained from the session, the House first passed the impeachment motion against the Speaker and then “defeated” Tuki in a no-confidence motion — both moved by BJP legislators on December 16 and 17, 2015. This prompted the Speaker and the Congress Legislature Party to move the Gauhati High Court, with the issue finally landing before a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court. On January 25, President’s Rule was imposed following a report from governor Rajkhowa that the law and order situation in the state had deteriorated and that there was no government in existence.