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FAMILIAR FARCE

It is a game that Indian politicians play ad nauseam. Switching party loyalties in order to topple, and then grab, governments has become so common that it has ceased to upset the polity. The chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Mr Mukut Mithi, has little moral ground for complaint over the revolt of most of his ministers and party colleagues. Four years ago, he led a similar revolt against his own party and toppled the government of Mr Gegong Apang. It must be a time of sweet revenge for Mr Apang, whom the deserters from Mr Mithi’s camp now want as chief minister again. The farce that is unfolding in Arunachal is familiar stuff in some other states in the Northeast, particularly Manipur where ministry-hungry politicians routinely make and break unstable governments. Mr Apang’s earlier spell as chief minister, which lasted more than 15 years, was possible because the state’s politics had not yet outgrown the age of innocence. Ironically, Mr Mithi, who ushered in the age of the defectors, has now reaped a bitter harvest. This, of course, does not cover the defectors and their game in glory.

However, some suspicions make the Arunachal episode look more dangerous than the usual story of toppling governments. The Congress, to which Mr Mithi belongs, has cried foul over an alleged “nexus” between its political opponents and Naga rebels in fomenting the revolt against him. Mr Mithi had antagonized the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, led by Mr Isak Swu and Mr Thuingaleng Muivah, by launching the “Operation Hurricane” to flush out the rebels from some parts of the state. He was right in launching the operation as he had a constitutional obligation to maintain law and order in the state. But he had to face a piquant situation also, because New Delhi has been negotiating with this NSCN group to end the Naga insurgency. This , along with the fact that Mr Apang’s Arunachal Congress is an ally of the National Democratic Alliance, has prompted the Congress to suspect a sinister plan behind the revolt against Mr Mithi. It would be an ominous development if any political party colluded with the Naga rebels to secure the government in the state. The suspicion may not be entirely unfounded, given the NSCN(I-M)’s attempts at sabotaging the previous Congress government of Mr S.C. Jamir in Nagaland. Arunachal is a border state whose strategic importance was underscored once again by the recent Chinese incursion into it. Using insurgents to seize political power in such a state can be dangerous for national security.

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