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Apang caught in portfolio crossfire
- Chief minister struggles to match too many claims and too few ministries

Guwahati, Aug. 4: Barely 24 hours after being sworn in as chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Gegong Apang’s man-management skills were put to the test with his ministerial colleagues vying with each other for plum portfolios.

Sources in Itanagar said deputy chief minister Kameng Dolo, former finance minister L. Wanglat and United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Lijum Roniya made it known that they would not settle for anything less than the home or finance portfolios.

Leaders of the UDF went into a huddle to find a formula acceptable to all, but the impasse continued. “There are too many contenders for each portfolio,” a legislator said.

Apang’s priority is to keep Dolo’s Congress (D) happy because the party accounts for 38 of the 42 legislators in the UDF. “If he does not plays his cards well, he will face a torrid time,” a leader of the ruling coalition said over phone from the state capital.

The chief minister is the lone member of the Arunachal Congress, which he formed in 1996 after a fight with the Congress high command over the repatriation of Chakma and Hajong refugees.

Apart from the Arunachal Congress and the Congress (D), UDF has two Independent legislators and expelled Congress member Wanglat.

Mekab Dolo, the deputy chief minister’s wife, is the lone woman in the ministry. Sources said the mother of 12 had informed the leadership that she would accept any portfolio, provided she was given independent charge.

Speaker Tamyo Taga and his deputy Rajesh Tacho will be inducted into the ministry after they resign from their posts. All 22 deserters from the erstwhile Mithi cabinet have been included in the new ministry, which has only eight new faces.

Those in the reckoning for the public works department, rural development, power, health, civil supplies and public health engineering portfolios are Lechi Legi, T. Wangham, T.L. Rajkumar, Thupten Tempa, Dorjee Khandu, S. Ngemu and C.C. Singpho.

Both Wangham and Rajkumar had been arrested in April for allegedly maintaining links with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

The Mithi government later launched Operation Hurricane against the insurgent group in Tirap district.

Sources said Apang, who allegedly returned to power with the NSCN (I-M)’s support, might distribute the ministerial portfolios tomorrow. He visited Changlang district, where the NSCN (I-M) has a presence, soon after being sworn in.

Apang went to Dayum constituency to visit the family of S. Singpho, the slain father-in-law of his ministerial colleague C.C. Singpho. The NSCN (Khaplang) is suspected to have had a hand in the killing, which took place on Saturday. The new chief minister’s visit to Dayum was his first to the trouble-torn area in the past four years.

As Apang juggled the portfolios, the ousted Congress claimed it would soon return to power. The Congress Legislature Party re-elected Mithi as its leader and vowed to foil the “nefarious designs” of the BJP-led government at the Centre.

The party elected Chowna Mein as its chief whip and Nabum Tuki as his deputy.

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