Khandu speaks in Naharlagun on Saturday after joining the BJP with 33 MLAs. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Dec. 31: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu today walked out of the People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) with 33 MLAs to join the BJP, giving the national party its second government in the Northeast after Assam.
Announcing his decision at a news meet convened by the BJP at Naharlagun at 1.30pm, Khandu asserted that the move would end the political turmoil the state has been facing since December 2015. "People of Arunachal wanted stability and development and we will do it now. We have joined the BJP and its a full-fledged BJP government in our state," he said.
Before announcing his decision in the presence of state BJP president Tapir Gao, Khandu met Speaker T.N. Thongdok. A close aide of Khandu said the Speaker and Raj Bhavan had endorsed the move, implying there would be no floor test. An Assembly bulletin announced the shift this evening. Khandu had become chief minister on July 17.
From the news meet, Khandu left straight for the BJP office in Itanagar to make the shift formal.
BJP leaders said the development capped the fresh turmoil triggered by PPA's temporary suspension of Khandu, deputy chief minister Chowna Mein and five other MLAs on Thursday night.
The state government had yesterday responded to the PPA's "unilateral" decision by claiming the support of 49 MLAs in a House of 60, including 12 BJP legislators and two Independents. He had, in the anti-party charges levelled against the suspended MLAs, cited they were conspiring to join the BJP.
PPA president Kahfa Bengia today accused the BJP of hijacking its MLAs despite the PPA being a constituent of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a platform of non-Congress parties in the Northeast.
This morning, Bengia said the PPA was ready to revoke the suspension if Khandu promised not to join the BJP. The PPA also warned the BJP to keep off the state's oldest regional party. However, PPA announced suspension of four more MLAs - Honchun Nandam, Bamang Felix, Pani Taram and Punji Mara.
Khandu also axed three ministers - Rajesh Tacho, Tanga Byaling and Takam Pario. The last named was tipped to replace Khandu.
Flaying the PPA for the suspensions without issuing a showcause notice, Khandu said the suspensions were a "blessing" in disguise and only hastened their plan to join the BJP. Chowna Mein told The Telegraph, "We are very happy to have joined the BJP and to work under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nobody has hijacked us, the PPA threw us out." The BJP had joined the PPA government in October and had one minister in the Khandu ministry. It had earlier backed the Congress rebels who had unseated Nabam Tuki as chief minister and then the PPA dispensation.
Responding to the developments, PPA secretary general Kaling Jerang, said, " We are yet to decide our future course of action but we will explore all options, including legal," he said, adding, "At present, we are with NEDA. We are trying to contact NEDA convener Himanta Biswa Sarma (who is in Kenya) and only then we can decide our position vis-a-vis NEDA."