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MLA kidnap slur on Mithi government

Itanagar/New Delhi, July 31: The political drama in Arunachal Pradesh today turned more complex after Congress activists allegedly abducted a legislator from a telephone booth in front of the hotel where former chief minister Gegong Apang’s new-found allies have been staying since Sunday.

Nyato Rigia, one of the 31 legislators who quit the Congress on Sunday to join the Apang-led United Democratic Front (UDF), returned to the hotel later in the day, but the controversy continued.

Chief minister Mukut Mithi is to undergo a trial of strength in the Assembly on Saturday.

Sources in the UDF said Rigia was forcibly taken away by Congress activists while he was making a telephone call from a public booth outside Hotel Bomdila. He was allegedly assaulted before being taken to an undisclosed location.

Rigia’s wife lodged a complaint with Itanagar police station, saying the Congress leadership had masterminded her husband’s abduction.

UDF secretary L. Wanglat, who had been expelled from the Congress a few months ago, said “five truckloads” of Congress supporters alighted in front of the hotel around 7 am and tried to enter it.

On being denied entry, they abducted Rigia from the telephone booth in front of the hotel, he said.

Congress spokesperson Habung Payeng refuted the allegation, saying Rigia accompanied his supposed abductors without being forced to. He met Mithi at his official residence, but Congress leaders were tight-lipped about the discussion between the two.

Wanglat claimed nearly 150 Congress members stormed his residence, disconnected four telephone lines and broke windowpanes.

The UDF leader also accused Mithi and the Congress’ central observers, including Oscar Fernandes, of trying to buy the legislators who are siding with Apang. He said some businessmen from outside the state had provided funds for the purpose.

Apang, trying to re-enact the coup that led to his ouster in 1999, said the Congress was using “money and muscle power” to subvert the democratic process.

“The abduction of one of our MLAs reflects the frustration of the Congress leaders, who know they will be defeated during the trial of strength in the Assembly on August 2.”

Itanagar superintendent of police Robin Hibu said four police pickets had been set up in the vicinity of the hotel where the UDF legislators are staying.

The crisis in Arunachal Pradesh was the subject of a debate in political circles in New Delhi, too. The BJP said the Congress’ allegation about its involvement in the bid to topple the Mithi government smacked of double standards.

“We condemn such baseless and wrong accusations against the BJP, since we do not have any representative in Arunachal Pradesh. These kind of charges by the Congress indicate the level of politics they have resorted to,” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said.

He accused the Congress of playing the same game whenever it is in trouble.

“The Congress encourages defection and later shows affection (towards the defectors). If the party splits, they put the blame on the Opposition. The Arunachal crisis has exposed the double standards of the Congress.”

The BJP chief said it was the Congress that had encouraged Mithi to split Apang’s Arunachal Congress in 1999, leading to the fall of the government.

On Monday, Apang paraded 41 legislators in front of governor V.C. Pande and staked claim to form a new government. The governor, however, decided to convene a special session of the 60-member Assembly for a trial of strength.

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