The Congress pulled off a dramatic success on Saturday in Arunachal Pradesh on Saturday, winning back its rebels by choosing a new leader.
At a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party in Itanagar, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki agreed to step down for a new leader. Minutes later, he proposed the name of 36-year-old Pema Khandu, son of the late chief minister Dorjee Khandu.
Mr Khandu was unanimously elected CLP leader just hours ahead of the scheduled floor test ordered by the State’s acting Governor, Tathaghata Roy.
Rebels back Khandu Mr Khandu immediately staked claim to power. In the 60-member House with an effective strength of 58, the Congress now claims the support of 47 MLAs (including all the rebels), along with two ndependents. Even Khaliko Pul, Congress rebel-turned chief minister, has now backed Mr Khandu. The governor will now have to set a fresh date for the floor test.
The Congress converted its “moral victory” — after the Supreme Court earlier this week restored the status quo ante as on December 2015 — into a practical triumph on Saturday by re-uniting its squabbling factions.
For the BJP that played a key role in the fall of the original Nabam Tuki government, Saturday’s events have come as a major political setback, depriving it of what it had thought would be a talking point in the monsoon session of Parliament that starts on Monday.
Embarrassment For two BJP members, it was particularly embarrassing — Kiren Rijiju, Union MoS for Home, and former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sharma, who joined the BJP ahead of the Assam Assembly polls, and had been tasked by the party to make the northeast free of Congress influence.
Mr Rijiju, an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, had initially toyed with the idea of making a bid to become chief minister, Congress sources say. Later, he helped Mr Pul to become Chief Minister.
Congress sources said Nabam Tuki, who was restored to power by the Supreme Court verdict earlier this week, but was not acceptable as Chief Minister for a majority of the Congress MLAs, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi here earlier this week. He was persuaded to step down to make way for a more acceptable face.
Simultaneously, on Saturday, Khaliko Pul, who was unseated by the Supreme Court, returned to the Congress fold along with other dissident MLAs. Party sources here said no action was planned against Mr. Pul — at least for now — as he had seen the light and “returned home”.
On Saturday, after the failure of the BJP’s Arunachal project — at least for now — Minister of State for Home and MP from Arunachal Kieren Rijiju, who had backed Congress rebel, Khaliko Pul, sought to distance himself from the events.