The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Defection jolt to Apang

Itanagar/Delhi, July 12: Less than a year after evicting Mukut Mithi in a coup, Arunachal Pradesh’s caretaker chief minister Gegong Apang is getting a taste of his own medicine with 13 more members of the BJP-led United Democratic Front (UDF) joining the Congress.

Tako Dabi, who was the Congress Legislature Party’s deputy leader in the dissolved Assembly, said the defectors include former Speaker Setongsena and Mekup Dolo, a former minister and wife of Apang’s deputy, Kameng Dolo. Eight members of the coalition switched allegiance to the Mithi camp earlier.

The crisis in the politically turbulent state began with the UDF ministry being downsized from 33 to 12 members. The revolt by sidelined leaders prompted Apang to move Governor V.C. Pande for dissolution of the Assembly.

Pande dissolved the 60-member House and asked Apang to continue as caretaker chief minister, but recommended President’s rule under controversial circumstances the next day. In a letter to the President that very night, he claimed that some unruly legislators forced him to do their bidding.

Congress members came out in a procession from the Itanagar party headquarters to Raj Bhavan this morning, demanding imposition of President’s rule and Pande’s removal immediately for dissolving the Assembly allegedly without a valid reason. The party announced a 12-hour Itanagar bandh tomorrow and a 24-hour statewide bandh the next day.

The political tremors rocked New Delhi, too, with leaders of rival parties lobbying with the Centre for an assurance that President’s rule would not be imposed. Union home minister Shivraj Patil, however, remained non-committal.

Patil repeated in the Lok Sabha what he had said in the Upper House last week. He said it was not possible for him to say that Arunachal Pradesh would not be brought under President’s rule. “What do we do when we get contradictory letters (from the governor and various parties)' We will not do anything in haste,” he said.

A source said the governor could be recalled before his five-year term ends in November.

The Manmohan Singh government is facing flak for removing governors appointed by the erstwhile National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, but the central BJP leadership is unlikely to protest if Pande gets the same treatment. The NDA had wanted Pande to resign when he was the governor of Bihar because of his poor health. When he did not take the hint, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government shifted him to Arunachal Pradesh.

A five-member delegation led by Mithi met A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to demand President’s rule and Pande’s recall. The former chief minister carried a video CD containing footage of “dissatisfied” former legislators meeting the governor after Apang downsized the government.

Mithi said the footage “clearly shows that there was no pressure on the governor and all the MLAs had merely expressed their views before him for five hours”. The President promised to do “what is appropriate”.

Apang went to the Union home minister with a videocassette containing separate footage and documents to prove that the governor was under duress when he recommended President’s rule.

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