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Cong insiders smell Tuki ‘strategy’

- High command backs decision to dissolve Arunachal Assembly
Nabam Tuki

Guwahati, March 7: The dissolution of the Arunachal Assembly last night was a “well-planned” strategy by the Congress leadership to ensure “long-term gains” for the ruling party and for the frontier state.

Party insiders told The Telegraph that the Congress high command and chief minister Nabam Tuki had worked in tandem to get the Assembly dissolved last night on the recommendation of the state cabinet, a move which took most by surprise.

Sources said Tuki had secured the support of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to dissolve the Assembly “some time in January” so that it could pave the way for simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state.

“Tuki’s confidants tapped the Election Commission officials in February to find out the nitty-gritties of holding simultaneous polls, particularly the timing of the Assembly dissolution,” a source said.

The decision to hold simultaneous polls was influenced by “covert dissidence” against Tuki within the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), something which he and his team sensed would not only hamper the party’s prospects in the Lok Sabha polls on April 9 but also the party and the government till the Assembly polls in October. The Congress currently holds both the Lok Sabha seats in Arunachal. The hardening of Tuki’s stand was evident when he sacked three influential ministers on February 28 for non-performance. Those axed include Chowna Mein, considered the virtual number 2 in the cabinet, Atum Welly and Jarkar Gamlim. Mein had expressed shock over his sacking.

The high-profile reshuffle of the 29-month-old ministry suggested that the party high command was backing Tuki, who has risen through the ranks and is described by his acquaintances as an “obsessive party man”. Nearly 38 Congress MLAs had “requested” Tuki to act against the dissidents. “Both the party and the state were losing because of the dissidence. The chief minister was able to convince the high command that simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections would keep the dissidents busy,” the source said.

That the party high command was with Tuki was evident from the backing he received for his move from AICC secretary and Assam MLA Bhupen Kumar Borah. “It is a good move. Both the state and party will benefit,” he said.

Simultaneous polls will also help the state by saving precious money and mandays. “The cost of holding Lok Sabha polls is around Rs 70 crore. Imagine the money that could be saved if both polls are held together,” said a state Congress general secretary.

“Moreover, a fresh mandate will give Tuki or whosoever the CLP elects its leader to lead without looking over their shoulder. Since 2009, we have seen three chief ministers... Tuki has played his cards well so far but the dissidents will not be sitting idle,” he warned.

Tuki left for Delhi this morning where he met an election commissioner H.S. Brahma. He will be meeting Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath in the next couple of days. “It is almost final. We can expect a notification for the Assembly polls by March 15,” a source said.

The 60-member Arunachal Assembly has 55 Congress, three BJP, one People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) and an Independent legislator. The Congress had won 42 seats in the 2009 Assembly polls, but its ranks swelled following defections from the NCP (5), Trinamul Congress (4) and the PPA (4).

The Lok Sabha polls will see the Congress slug it out with the BJP, which the former has accused of encouraging dissidence.

The Arunachal BJP and the PPA have termed the dissolution of the House “undemocratic”.

Tai Tagak, state BJP president, told The Telegraph they don’t have to encourage dissidence in the Congress as the latter had a history of infighting. “The dissolution was triggered by infighting. They were also unnerved by the response Narendra Modi’s rally received at Pasighat last month. We oppose simultaneous polls because the state machinery is not ready. Though we are ready for the elections, we fear they may not be free and fair. We have moved the commission, President Pranab Mukherjee and governor Nirbhay Sharma against holding of simultaneous polls,” he said.


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