The year 2016 has been a political roller-coaster for the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh – a period in which it saw three chief ministers, a brief period of President’s Rule, lawmakers drifting from one party to the other, a corruption scandal and a likely fourth chief minister as the year comes to a close.
The deep undercurrents of political upheaval first took shape late last year in the form of resentment against Congress chief minister Nabam Tuki by a section of the party lawmakers. The Congress had won the last state elections in 2014 convincingly capturing 42 of the 60 seats, but there was dissatisfaction with the manner in which Tuki held the state of affairs. The anti-Tuki faction was primarily led by Kalikho Pul, a former health minister who was expelled from the party in April for anti-party activities. The expulsion of Pul and the open dissidence by a section of the lawmakers is widely seen to be the reason for the political developments that took shape this year.
Here’s the timeline of events:
November, 2015 – 21 MLAs of the Congress, in an act of open dissidence, skipped a crucial meeting of the Congress legislature party that was to be chaired by then chief minister Tuki. They were of the opinion that they could not function under the leadership of Tuki and voiced concerns to the state and national leaderships.
December, 2015 – The role of then-Governor JP Rajkhowa in the battles within the Congress is not to be dismissed. Rajkhowa, without consulting Tuki, advanced the Assembly session from January, 2016 to December, 2015 and was approached by a section of MLAs wanting to impeach Speaker Nabam Rebia. An emergency session of the Assembly was soon called and dissident MLAs of the Congress along with BJP members and Independents impeached the Speaker. The special session was held at a community hall and Kalikho Pul was elected the ‘leader’ of the House. The move sparked protests within the Congress who called the move unconstitutional. The same day, the Speaker disqualified 14 MLAs. The same month, the Congress invoking article 356 imposed President’s Rule in the state.
January 5, 2016 – The disqualification of the MLAs was turned down by the Gauhati High Court and the Speaker’s plea was swept aside.
January 15 – The Speaker, who has filed a batch of petitions challenging the Governor’s actions, moves the Supreme Court which in turn turns them to a constitution bench.
January 29 – Tuki files a fresh petition in the Supreme Court challenging President’s Rule in the state.
January 30 – The Centre, led by the BJP, justifies President’s rule in the state.
February 2 – Rajkhowa said the President’s Rule is temporary and that an elected government will soon be in place.
February 4 – The Supreme Court, examining the powers of Governors, took strong note of a submission that all decisions of the Governor are not open to judicial review and said it cannot be a mute spectator when democratic processes are “slaughtered”.
February 10 – The top court rejected the pleas of the rebel Congress MLAs against the Speaker.
February 19 – President’s Rule is lifted in the state
February 20 – Dissident leader Kalikho Pul was sworn in as the ninth Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh with the support of 18 rebel Congress MLAs, and two Independents and 11 BJP MLAs who gave outside support. 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.
February 23 – The Supreme Court observed that it was empowered to “set the clock back” if there were constitutional violations in the manner in which the Arunachal Pradesh Governor issued orders that have eventually led to formation of a new government in the state.
February 25 – Pul won the vote of confidence without any opposition on the first day of the state assembly session, with 17 Congress MLAs including former chief minister Nabam Tuki remaining absent in the House.
March 3 – 30 rebel Congress MLAs who sided with CM Pul merged with People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), leaving no scope for the Congress to take any legal action against them. The merger took place with the CM announcing it at Naharlagun. He said they were “compelled” to take the decision as Congress had “shut all its doors” despite all of them asserting that they continued to belong to it.
May 6 – Top leaders of the Congress party took out a march from Jantar Mantar against what it called the ‘undemocratic’ policies of the Centre with regard to the imposition of President’s Rule in the states of Arunachal and Uttarakhand. Some of the leaders courted arrest before they were released by the police.
July 13 – The Supreme Court turned the clock back and restored the Congress government in the state. The court said the Governor’s actions were ‘illegal.’
July 16 – The Congress stages a big coup by bringing back all the rebels into the party fold. The move thwarted BJP plans to form a government in the state.
July 17 – Pema Khandu is sworn in as the new chief minister of the state, the third in the year. He sweeps aside Akhilesh Yadav as the youngest chief minister in the country.
July 20 – The Congress government comfortably proves a majority on the floor of the Assembly.
August 3 – Khandu expands his cabinet and inducts more ministers. Governor Tathagata Roy administers oath of office.
August 9 – Former chief minister Kalikho Pul found hanging from a ceiling fan at his official residence. Government announces magisterial inquiry into the former CM’s death.
August 12 – Pul is cremated with state honours in his native village of Walla in Anjaw district.
August 14 – Governor Rajkhowa is back in office.
September 6 – Despite being asked by Centre to step down on medical grounds, Rajkhowa says he would not resign. “I want the President to sack me,” he says.
September 12 – Rajkhowa sacked as Governor of the state.
September 16 – In a surprise move, the entire Congress Legislature Party except Tuki resigns from the party and moves to the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA). PPA is a member of the NDA’s North East Democratic Alliance. 43 of the 44 Congress MLAs have defected to the PPA.
October 14 -With the inclusion of BJP MLA Tamiyo Taga in the council of ministers, the PPA government officially becomes an NDA government. Arunachal becomes state number 14.
October 26 – Rajkhowa says late CM Pul left notes so ‘explosive’ that there will be tremors within the political system. He said he had been seeking a CBI inquiry into the circumstances into the death of Pul.
November 22 – Pul’s widow Dasanglu Pul wins the Hayuliang by-election in Arunachal. Dasanglu Pul contested on a BJP ticket.
December 29 – In a late night development, chief minister Khandu and six other MLAs were suspended from the PPA citing anti-party activities.
December 30 – On the penultimate day of the year, Khandu is set to step aside for a new CM, the fourth this year for the state.
(With inputs from Samudra Gupta Kashyap and Utkarsh Anand)