Bringing to an end the musical chairs game for power in Arunachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Pema Khandu and 32 other legislators of the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) switched loyalties on the last day of the year, gifting the BJP its first full-fledged government in the North East — though there was one for 44 days in 2003 under Gegong Apang — and the tenth in the country. In the 60-member House, the BJP strength is now 45 and it has the support of two independents. The PPA count is down to 10 while the Congress has only three members. In the last twelve months, the state has had four chief ministers.
Soon after he crossed over with 32 MLAs, Khandu told reporters: “Lotus has finally bloomed in Arunachal. The people of the state will see a new dawn of development in the new year under the new government.” “We were anyway in the process of joining the BJP in a few days. But the sudden turmoil in the PPA, with its leaders placing us under suspension two days ago, prompted us to hasten the process. Altogether 33 MLAs, including the Speaker and I are now BJP. My government is now a full-fledged BJP government,” he said. The PPA reacted angrily, accusing the BJP of “hijacking” its government. PPA chairman Kahfa Bengia said: “The BJP hijacked our government despite the PPA being a partner of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). Now it is clear that Khandu and his supporters, who originally belonged to the Congress, used the PPA as a transit camp, parking place.”
Khandu said the people of the state wanted a stable government “in line with” that of Narendra Modi at the Centre. “The people of Arunachal Pradesh always wanted a government that was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The PPA action was a blessing in disguise,” he said. The Chief Minister assured the state that this would be the last change until the 2019 assembly elections. “I assure the people that there will be no more turmoil or instability till the 2019 assembly elections. We will only have development,” he said.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav hailed the installation of the party government. “Arunachal Pradesh becomes 10th BJP ruled state and 14th with BJP alliances. Congratulations to CM Pema Khandu and welcome into BJP Parivar,” Madhav wrote on Twitter. The entry of Khandu and 32 other MLAs was “cleared” by the BJP at the highest level. He and his followers would have joined the BJP immediately after he was installed as Chief Minister on July 16, three days after a Supreme Court verdict set the clock back to December 15, 2015 and reinstated Nabam Tuki as Chief Minister. But the legislators, who first returned to the Congress after having spent four months in the PPA under then Chief Minister Kalikho Pul (since March 3) and then to the PPA again on September 16, decided to wait since the PPA was already a part of the BJP-sponsored NEDA.
Informal discussions with the BJP continued but it was only in the third week of December that BJP president Amit Shah cleared the merger. Earlier, the merger was delayed due to the death of Pul on August 9. Khandu, his Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein, and Ram Madhav had met Shah in New Delhi to discuss the merger. The PPA, which did not have a single MLA until December 2015, had 31 MLAs when the then Congress Chief Minister Kalikho Pul joined the regional party on March 3. While Pul lost office after the July 13 Supreme Court verdict that set the clock back to December 13, 2015 to restore the government of Nabam Tuki, Khandu became Chief Minister of a Congress government after Tuki was removed by the Congress Legislature Party. On September 17, Khandu and 43 of 44 Congress MLAs joined the PPA.