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New role for Mithi, relief for Apang

Guwahati, June 29: Wiser after the recent crisis in Meghalaya, the Congress high command is trying to “exile” at least one potential challenger to Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang.

Apang’s predecessor and PCC president Mukut Mithi is set to be shunted out from the state and appointed lieutenant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“I understand that my name is being considered for a gubernatorial post. But I am not sure where the posting will be. Nothing is final till the order is out,” Mithi said from New Delhi.

A Congress source in Itanagar said the decision to send Mithi into “political exile” was a pre-emptive move to avert a Meghalaya-like situation, where the Congress high command had to replace D.D. Lapang with J.D. Rymbai.

The Meghalaya crisis was the result of Congress legislators rebelling against Lapang.

Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most politically volatile states in the country, where governments have changed overnight. Mithi has been at the centre stage of almost all the political dramas that have taken place in recent times and is seen as the only threat to Apang, who himself resorted to political skulduggery to wrest the hot seat in 2003.

In fact, Mithi and Apang have a long history of unseating one another. First it was Mithi who toppled the Apang-led Arunachal Congress government in 1999, halting his unchallenged streak from 1980 to January 1999.

In 2003, Apang managed to woo a large number of Mithi’s legislators and joined the BJP, which saw the formation of the region’s first government led by the party.

Just before the 2004 Assembly elections, Apang did another U-turn, deserting the BJP to re-join the Congress, which he had left in 1996. Apang was rewarded for the “homecoming” with the post of chief minister much to the chagrin of Mithi, who had led the party to victory that year.

Mithi lobbied hard for the deputy chief minister’s post, but was denied the office as the high command felt that it could lead to two power centres in the government.

“The high command is aware that Mithi is still powerful and is also capable of staging another political coup. That is the reason why he is being shunted out of the state. It is common wisdom, two lions cannot stay in the same forest,” the Congress source said.

He said though there was no immediate threat to the Apang government from Mithi, “the party high command is not taking any chances after what has happened in Shillong”.

Mithi said he was not averse to the idea of taking the new responsibility. “Why should I treat it as a retirement posting' There are so many instances when governors have come back to state politics. The latest example being Kyndiah (DoNER minister P.R. Kyndiah),” Mithi said.

He said as a “loyal” Congress worker, he would take up whatever responsibility the Congress leadership bestowed on him. “If the party leadership thinks that my service is required as governor, I will definitely respect the decision,” he added.

Mithi loyalists, however, are not delighted with the development. They think that the party high command is not giving him a fair deal despite his “unflinching loyalty”.

“Unlike Apang, Mithi never left the party,” one of the loyalists said.

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