July 7: The BJP-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Arunachal Pradesh became the first casualty of the downsizing exercise with governor V.C. Pande recommending President’s rule after a revolt by sidelined ministers led to a constitutional crisis.
Pande had initially dissolved the 60-member Assembly at the recommendation of the government and asked Gegong Apang to continue as caretaker chief minister.
He took the big step of invoking Article 356 (C) after 23 legislators of the Congress, the BJP and the Congress (Dolo) laid siege to Raj Bhavan, demanding the revocation of his previous order.
“We will not leave this place till the governor reconsiders his decision,” Congress spokesman Takam Sanjay said from Raj Bhavan when contacted on his cellphone.
He described the decision to dissolve the House as “undemocratic and unprecedented”.
The situation became more complex after Pande recommended President’s rule. Now, it was Apang’s turn to cry foul.
Describing the step as “unjustified and unconstitutional”, he accused the 23-member group, led by former chief minister Mukut Mithi, of “even getting physical” to pressure the governor to do their bidding.
In a six-point representation to Pande, the delegation said Arunachal Pradesh should be brought under President’s rule to ensure free and fair elections later this year. The group of 23 warned of a law and order problem in the run-up to the poll, particularly in the militant-infested Tirap and Changlang districts, if the governor did not take the right decision.
“We pointed out to the governor that dissolution of the House would scuttle the investigation into charges of misappropriation of public money by the Apang government,” Mithi said.
An Assembly committee had been constituted recently to investigate the allegations against the finance minister.
The crisis in the government began last evening, prompting Apang to convene an emergency meeting after midnight. The council of ministers recommended dissolution of the Assembly to the governor in a bid to silence those who were omitted from the government when it was downsized from 33 to 12 members.
“We recommended dissolution of the House to prevent horse-trading. We wanted to seek a mandate afresh,” home minister L. Wanglet said over phone from Itanagar this morning.
Former power minister Lijum Ronya, however, claimed Apang did not take all members of his government into confidence. He accused the chief minister of being partial towards his loyalists while downsizing the ministry.
Ronya hinted the disgruntled BJP members could return to the Congress, which they deserted only last year.
Mithi said the Congress would gladly accept everyone except Apang. “There is no question of taking back Apang because of his dubious character. He has always dumped his party for selfish gains,” the former chief minister said.
AICC observer Dalbir Singh is expected to reach Itanagar tomorrow to review the developments. A source said a few Congress members had moved the party high command for a change in the state leadership.
Mithi shrugged off the challenge, saying he was more concerned about strengthening the party before the elections.