TWO DAYS after he and 42 other MLAs joined the People’s Party of Arunachal, leading to the Congress losing power in the state, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Sunday said there was no point sticking to a party that had no time for its own Chief Minister.
Khandu told The Indian Express, “Two days after I was sworn in as Chief Minister of the Congress government, I rushed to Delhi to call on the party high command and meet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. But while they asked me to wait for three days, the same evening I got an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi within 15 minutes for next morning. Why should we stay in such a party that does not have time for its own Chief Minister?”
“The kind of response we got in the AICC headquarters just two days of taking oath as Chief Minister was totally frustrating and humiliating. Moreover, they wanted to strike down names from my list and impose a list of ministers on me,” Khandu said.
“Yes, it is true we had returned to the Congress after the Supreme Court verdict of July 13. We could have stayed out, or could have invited provisions of the anti-defection law by voting against Nabam Tuki, who was asked to prove majority within two days of the court order. But we did not do that, and sincerely returned to the party by honouring the court verdict. But when your own party refused to trust us, when the party high command had no time for us, what was the alternative?”
Khandu said the Congress high command, however, had total faith on Tuki. “But then while 40 of us (MLAs) had already moved out and joined PPA under Kalikho Pul’s leadership, most of the 14 left with Tuki had also lost trust in him long ago. That all 43 of us are now in the PPA proves this,” Khandu said.
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The Chief Minister, who now heads a PPA government supported by the BJP, also admitted that although the Congress had won a huge majority in the 2014 assembly elections, the people were soon fed up as no development took place.
“The majority of the Congress MLAs were also getting frustrated because no scheme was functioning, forget about new programmes. There was no existence of the state government. That was what drove us to revolt,” he said.
When asked why they joined an almost defunct party like the PPA and not the BJP, Khandu said, “The ground report was that the common man wanted a regional party. Moreover, the PPA was already part of the NEDA, which puts us as equal partners with the BJP.”
Khandu, however, said that he and his colleagues now miss Pul, the man who first led the revolt in the Congress. “We miss Kalikho Pul at the moment when we have a stable government with a solid majority. He was a very good leader. He used to be my father’s (Dorjee Khandu) most trusted minister. He was in fact my father’s right-hand man,” he said. Pul allegedly committed suicide at his official residence in Itanagar on August 9.
Khandu did not want to go into what led Pul to commit suicide. “Let the investigation be over. While the forensic report is still awaited, we have entrusted the probe to an IGP,” he said.