The Union Cabinet has recommended the imposition of President’s rule in Congress-ruled Arunachal Pradesh following a decision taken during an emergency meeting early on Monday. The recommendation has been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent.
The Congress described the move as “trampling of democracy” and an act of “political intolerance”, and said it would challenge the decision in Supreme Court. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, a BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh, said it was up to the MLAs to decide the state’s future.
Arunachal Governor J P Rajkhowa’s controversial decision in December to advance a session of the assembly against the wishes of the state government is already pending before a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.
The Congress argument is that there is no provision, under the Constitution or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, that empowers the Governor to advance (summon) the session of the assembly without consulting the chief minister and council of ministers.
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“This is a very unfortunate political step that this government has taken. The Governor through his actions has already embarrassed himself. This act of the government to recommend President’s rule will also embarrass it. This government knows that it has no majority in the Rajya Sabha and this recommendation can never pass because it is politically motivated,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
He said the BJP government has tried to “destabilise a border state”. “This is an act of political intolerance. The way intolerance is on the rise, be it the incident of Rohith (Vemula who committed suicide in Hyderabad) or the Governor’s intolerance, these are acts of political intolerance and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is the fountainhead of that intolerance,” said Sibal.
“They want to create instability. This is the political wisdom that this government has. This is an act of political intolerance. We have seen the kind of acts of intolerance that they have perpetrated.. This is their idea of cooperative federalism. The centre has to work with states, especially a border state. And look what they are doing. They seem to be interested not in the nation but making their presence where it has none,” he added.
The Congress has claimed that there was evidence, including audio tapes, to prove that the BJP “tried to manipulate” a majority in Arunachal by supporting the (Congress) dissidents and giving them money. “The matter is in the Supreme Court. I think they felt ‘what if that goes against them’. So they are trying to manipulate a majority in some other way. This will cost them heavily. We will challenge the imposition of President’s rule,” said Sibal.
“They are trying to bypass a matter which is sub judice by taking advantage of constitutional powers,” he said.
Reacting to the recommendation, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju told PTI: “The Union Cabinet has recommended the imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh for the next six months. The question of BJP forming the government does not arise at all. It is the MLAs who will decide what to do in future.”
Trouble began for the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh when as many as 21 out of its 47 MLAs rebelled. The BJP has 11 MLAs in the 60-member House. Even the Deputy Speaker was among those who rebelled. While the Congress moved a motion demanding removal of the Deputy Speaker, the BJP sought the Speaker’s removal.
The Governor intervened and advanced a session of the assembly. He also sent a letter directing that the first item on the agenda of the session should be a resolution for removal of the Speaker. He directed that the Deputy Speaker, who is disgruntled with the Congress, “shall preside over the House from the first moment of the first sitting of the House in accordance with provisions in article 181(1) of the Constitution”.
The Governor’s message, dated December 9, further instructed that the procedures related to removal of the Speaker “shall be completed at the first sitting of the session itself” and that “until the session is prorogued, no presiding officer shall alter the party composition in the House.”