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Apang loses power tussle

Itanagar, April 9: Gegong Apang today became the second Congress chief minister of a northeastern state to be unseated in as many months after an intrigue-filled game of political musical chairs.

As in Meghalaya, where J.D. Rymbai lost “majority support” and made way for D.D. Lapang in March, Apang’s ouster was the culmination of an orchestrated revolt within the Congress. The difference lay in the fact that Apang was done in by someone he probably never considered to be a challenger.

Dorjee Khandu, 52, was sworn in as chief minister after Apang proposed his name at the Congress Legislature Party meeting in Itanagar this afternoon. Not that the wily veteran, who reigned for 30 months, had a choice. The writing was on the wall when Takam Sanjay, political adviser to Apang, resigned on Saturday night and declared to all and sundry that the ousted chief minister was not heeding his advice to quit “gracefully”.

The meeting that finally sealed Apang’s fate got under way at 1 pm under the supervision of Union labour minister Oscar Fernandez, who is the AICC’s Northeast in-charge, and information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Das Munshi broke the news about the change of guard to the media. “Khandu has been unanimously selected as the chief minister of the state. Apang himself has proposed Khandu’s name as the next chief minister to pave the way for smooth functioning of the party,” he said.

Khandu had done his homework well. He even sent a group of 20-odd Congress legislators, including ministers, to a luxury resort near Gurgaon in Haryana to ensure that Apang did not get a chance to win back their support. An aide of the ousted chief minister said he still had backers, but none stood up for him today.

There are 33 Congress legislators in the 60-member Assembly. The Nationalist Congress Party and the Arunachal Congress have two each and the BJP has nine. Independents comprise the second largest group with a strength of 14.

In his first interaction with the media after the swearing-in ceremony, Khandu said his priorities were to streamline the public distribution system, ensure time-bound implementation of power projects and initiate steps for autonomy to the four districts of Tirap, Changlang, Tawang and West Kameng under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Apang, who attended the swearing-in, said he “honoured” Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s advice “to step down in the greater interest of the party”.

Arunachal Pradesh has a history of political turbulence and Apang has almost always been at the centre of it all. He has been chief minister for the maximum period since Arunachal Pradesh attained statehood.

As for Khandu, it has been a slow but steady climb to the top. He was the power minister under Apang and mines and minerals minister in the erstwhile Mukut Mithi government.

Khandu has been contesting elections on a Congress ticket from Mukto, in Tawang district, since 1990 and won uncontested in 1990 and 2004.

The council of ministers will be reconstituted later this week. “ Today only the new CM was sworn. There has to be some more discussions on the contour of the new ministry,” a source said.

In an unrelated incident, PCC chief Oomen Moyang Deori’s son Berlin, the Youth Congress joint secretary, was wounded in a stabbing incident. His condition is stated to be serious.

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