Friday, Oct 07, 2022

A mandate eclipsed

The People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), which had no presence in the assembly till last week, now has 43 MLAs and a government. It’s an unseemly picture.

arunachal pradesh defection, pema khandu defection, pema khandu ppa, arunachal pradesh government, arunachal pradesh parliamentary secretary, india news, indian express, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu. (Source: PTI)

The power struggle in Arunachal Pradesh turned absurd last week when Chief Minister Pema Khandu and the entire legislature party, barring one MLA, left the Congress to join a regional outfit, a constituent of the North East Democratic Alliance, affiliated to the NDA. The People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), which had no presence in the assembly till last week, now has 43 MLAs and a government. It’s an unseemly picture. Khandu and his band of legislators may have the numbers to beat the anti-defection law and cling on to office, but they no longer have the moral legitimacy to continue in government. These legislators contested on a party platform; the mandate was as much for the party as it was for individual candidates. It is best that Arunachal Pradesh now has fresh elections and voters are given the opportunity to elect a new assembly.

Since last December, Arunachal has seen MLAs switch sides with abandon, and governments sacked and formed with no deference to the mandate or due process. Unfortunately, the Centre and the then Arunachal governor, J.P. Rajkhowa, too, are seen to be involved in the intrigues. It took the Supreme Court in July to restore order: The court censured the governor’s conduct and restored the government he had dismissed a few months earlier.

The Centre has since removed Rajkhowa, but the Union cabinet was no less culpable for the mess he presided over: It had accepted the governor’s recommendation for president’s rule in the state when it was clear that he had not followed the procedure laid down by the Supreme Court in the Bommai case. Rajkhowa was made accountable — and rightly so — for his blatant disregard for convention and norms. But the Centre, which has also seemed complicit in the subversion of democracy in Arunachal, has not found it necessary to explain its conduct. The latest developments indicate that the message in the Supreme Court’s July ruling has been lost on all players.

In their pursuit for power, the two national parties, the BJP and the Congress, have often reduced politics in the Northeast to an unscrupulous process of manoevring and patronage. They have encouraged parties and legislators to shift sides in blatant disregard of the mandate. In fact, the first instance of party hopping in Arunachal in this assembly was when the Congress, after winning the state in May 2014, admitted all five MLAs elected on PPA tickets to the party. The politics of defections can erode public trust in electoral democracy, which can have deep implications for the sensitive Northeastern region — parties with stakes in the system can ill afford not to keep this in mind.

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First published on: 20-09-2016 at 12:00:55 am
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