How Congress fought back and salvaged its government in Arunachal Pradesh

Manogya Loiwal
Manogya LoiwalJul 17, 2016 | 13:14

How Congress fought back and salvaged its government in Arunachal Pradesh

The country's oldest political party is learning the latest lessons in politics.

Known to be a party that believes in democracy, yet follows the decisions made by the party chief, almost always hailing from a particular family, it proved yet again that it was a champion in changing the game and its rules too.

Interestingly, it performs only when given a deadline and is locked in a pressure cooker-like situation.

The Supreme Court order of reinstating Nabam Tuki as the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh and the deadline of a floor test by governor Tathagata Roy were reasons enough for the party to present a united face.

But that was only after party president Sonia Gandhi's intervention and orders.

The Supreme Court's order on July 13 took the clock back to December 15, 2015, cancelling the appointment of Kalikho Pul as the chief minister and stating the entire episode as "unconstitutional".

Tuki took over as the chief minister within hours.

Nabam Tuki - former Congress CM of Arunachal.

On his return to Itanagar on July 14, he was informed that the floor test would be held on July 16 at 10am in the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly located in Naharlagun.

This had set the time bomb ticking.

Kalikho Pul, a rebel along with 43 legislators began camping in Guwahati... the gateway to the Northeast.

Every movement of the rebel Congress legislators was being monitored by the BJP.

Till Thursday (July 14), the BJP camp led by Ram Madhav, Himanta Biswa Sarma (a former Congress rebel and now a Cabinet minister in the BJP-led government in Assam) were confident of the numbers and winning the game too.

It was only on Friday (July 15) evening that the Congress high command was given the option of bringing back the legislators by hook or by crook.

The options were explored and the easiest was a change of leadership.

The Congress was now in the need of a face that was beyond controversy, yet carried the legacy of the Congress.

Pema Khandu, the son of former chief minister Dorjee Khandu and a Cabinet minister since 2014 was the man of the moment.

Despite being a rebel, he was a choice with whom all legislators agreed.

Now the challenge was who will bell the cat.

Surprisingly, the convoy that started with 43 MLAs on July 15 as the messengers of the BJP-supported PPA government from Guwahati turned into loyal Congressmen as soon as they entered Arunachal Pradesh on July 16.

Hectic parleys continued till 2am with the high command directly intervening and speaking to the rebels wherever required.

It was the carrot and stick policy that brought the rebel leaders on the same platform ensuring they attended the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting in the chief minister's bungalow on the morning of July 16 just three hours before the floor test in the Assembly.

Pul, the man who became the face of the Northeast Democratic Alliance formally announced on July 13 in Guwahati, was one of the signatories in the letter of support sent by the CLP to the governor.

The truth is that the Congress had pushed Pul to the wall by offering the chief minister's seat to a younger leader which made all the legislators change sides.

But had they not attended the meeting, they would have been expelled from the party, lost their legislator status and would have been compelled to face elections sans a symbol, making it almost impossible for them to win in this part of the country.

The BJP may now be distancing itself from the developments terming it as an internal matter of the Congress, but the reality is, it's a lesson learnt for them that no two states even in the Northeast are the same and the same trick cannot be applied in two states.

The Congress leadership perhaps is smiling having successfully diffused the ticking time bomb well in time.

Last updated: July 17, 2016 | 13:14
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