| Gegong Apang being sworn in at Raj Bhavan in Itanagar on Sunday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Itanagar, Aug. 3: The weeklong political drama in Arunachal Pradesh today culminated in old warhorse Gegong Apang’s return to the saddle after four years in the wilderness.
Apang, 57, leads almost the same group of legislators who had sided with his predecessor Mukut Mithi during the 1999 coup that led to his ouster after 19 years at the helm.
The new 35-member council of ministers sworn in by governor V.C. Pande includes 33 of cabinet rank. Kameng Dolo, whose departure from the Congress along with 30 other legislators laid the foundation for Apang’s comeback, has been rewarded with the deputy chief minister’s post.
Dolo’s wife Mekab, too, has been included in the ministry. She is the lone woman member and one of eight who have become ministers for the first time.
The more prominent names in the Apang ministry include L. Wanglat, T.L. Rajkumar and T. Wangham, who had been arrested under the Arunachal Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act in April for allegedly hobnobbing with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).
All 22 deserters from the erstwhile Mithi cabinet have been retained, indicating that Apang does not want to take any chances in his second innings. Speaker Tamyo Taga and his deputy, Rajesh Tacho, have been given cabinet berths, but can take oath only after resigning from their posts.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) — comprising Apang’s Arunachal Congress, the Dolo-led Congress (D), two Independents and expelled Congress member Wanglat — has a strength of 42 in the 60-member House.
Apang told the media after the swearing-in ceremony that the portfolios would be distributed soon. He thanked the people of the state and his legislators for showing faith in the UDF.
Mithi, who was defeated in yesterday’s trial of strength by voice vote, did not attend the swearing-in ceremony.
The new chief minister’s initiation into politics dates back to his college days in the remote Jenging area of Upper Siang district. He was the president of the All-Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union before joining the Janata Party in 1978. Two years later, he contested and won an Assembly election from the erstwhile East Siang district as a Congress member. He first became chief minister at the relatively young age of 33.
Apang parted ways with the Congress in September 1996 after a spat with the high command.