Since December, at least 19 politicians — including former state ministers, legislators and prominent local leaders — have joined the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh, a state headed for Assembly elections this year alongside the general election. Several of those defecting to the Congress are from the BJP, the ruling party in the state, and at least two are from the National People’s Party (NPP).
Among those who deserted the BJP for the Congress this month are Tatar Kipa, Atum Welly and James L Wanglat, with each of them, according to the Congress, “bringing in at least 2,000 supporters”.
In January, Gegong Apang, a former CM, had quit the BJP, saying the party had become a “platform to seek power”.
Takam Sanjay, the Congress chief in the state, said, “Leaders of all levels are running away from the BJP and joining us. The BJP is pushing the Citizenship Bill. People are angry and will vote the BJP away.”
For Kipa, Welly and Wanglat, it is a return to the Congress — all three were ministers in the earlier Congress government in the state but had left over differences with the party.
Wanglat, a former home minister, said he left the Congress in 2009 because he was denied a ticket in that Assembly election. He joined the BJP in 2014 but lost in the state election to the Congress candidate.
“One of the primary reasons for my leaving the BJP is the Citizenship Bill. It betrays the people of the Northeast,” Wanglat said.
Welly too criticised the Bill and said it was one of the reasons for his quitting the BJP. “The BJP is also pushing the Permanent Resident Certificate issue,” he said.
The BJP, however, says these leaders defected because they were not sure of getting tickets. “They may be socially important in their constituencies but electorally, they are not,” said Arunachal BJP chief Tapir Gao.