Shortly after an order of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court set the stage for his removal from office, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul Wednesday said he would file a review petition. He claimed he would be able to continue in power because he had the numbers on his side.
“I have not seen the entire verdict. But everything will be finally decided on the floor of the House. I have the numbers on my side. Moreover, my government was not formed in the wake of the December 15-16 developments. I was invited to form the government after I paraded 32 MLAs before the Governor in February,” Pul told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the first conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati.
Pul claimed that 10 of the 15 MLAs currently with the Congress were also in touch with him and would switch sides.
“Ten of the 15 Congress MLAs have been in touch with me. They also want to come out,” Pul said, suggesting that Nabam Tuki, who was ousted from power in an Assembly “session” held first in a community hall and then in a hotel on December 16 and 17, would be left with just five MLAs including himself.
BJP president Amit Shah, who was present at the NEDA conclave when the Supreme Court ruling came, preferred not to comment on the court order.
Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs and BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh, asked the media to wait for a floor test. “The Supreme Court verdict has to be definitely respected. But finally, everything has to be proved on the floor of the House,” he said.
His party tried to distance itself from the Arunachal Pradesh developments. Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, convenor of NEDA, said: “It is good that one chapter has come to an end with the Supreme Court verdict. But while the BJP had only given outside support to Kalikho Pul, it is for the Assembly to decide.”
“The ball is now in the state Assembly and it is for the honourable MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh to decide. Who remains or becomes Chief Minister is now subject to majority in the Assembly,” Sarma said, emerging from a meeting of Shah and Pul shortly after the NEDA conclave.
“The Arunachal issue is more than seven months old, and Pul himself has been in power for over four months. The NEDA is born only today. The ball will now come to the state Assembly. It is up to the Assembly to repose trust in whom it thinks is the right leader,” he said.
In Itanagar, there is a lot of confusion over what would be the exact effective strength of the state Assembly in the backdrop of the Supreme Court order. Going by the apex court order to maintain status quo ante as on December 15, 2015, the strength of the 60-member House will be 44 — 14 rebel MLAs are under suspension and two MLAs have resigned.
On December 15, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki had the support of 26 MLAs, while Pul had 18 on his side. But then, 12 MLAs deserted Tuki and joined Pul’s camp in the next eight-nine weeks until the latter had the numbers to stake claim to form the government.
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