Arunachal Pradesh appeared to be headed for another round of political turmoil, after the Supreme Court restored the Congress government in the northeastern hill state on Wednesday. Acting governor Tathagata Roy on Thursday asked chief minister Nabam Tuki to take a floor test in the state assembly on Saturday to prove he has the numbers to rule.
The Tuki government could, however, be on a slippery ground with ousted chief minister Kalikho Pul parading 29 dissident Congress lawmakers before the media in Guwahati. He claimed the support of 11 BJP and two Independent MLAs in the 60-member assembly, in which two seats are vacant because of resignations.
“I have the support of these 29 MLAs. So we are 30, half of the total strength of the assembly … In the number game, I have the majority. In a floor test, my government will survive,” Pul said.
That leaves the Congress with only 15 legislators, just half of the requisite majority figure in a House with an effective strength of 58. AICC secretary Jay Kumar flew to Itanagar to woo back the Congress rebel MLAs, who had sided with the BJP to unseat Tuki last December. The Arunachal capital was abuzz with talks about the possibility of horsetrading. Congress sources said the party could call the legislature party meeting ahead of the vote of confidence, and absent lawmakers might face disqualification. If Tuki fails to muster the numbers, sources said, he could recommend dissolution of the assembly and fresh elections. But he could face a gubernatorial hurdle in that case.
The decision of Roy, the Tripura governor officiating on behalf of his ailing Arunachal counterpart, to give only two days to the Congress government to prove its majority raised eyebrows too.
“I will win the floor test, but I need 10-15 days. Many MLAs are away and they cannot come to Itanagar by Saturday because of the difficult topography and communication bottlenecks,” Tuki said in Itanagar. Arunachal was placed under President’s Rule on January 26 after 21 of 47 Congress legislators rebelled against Tuki, reducing his government to a minority.
Before the apex court reserved its verdict on February 20 this year, rebel Congress leader Kalikho Pul was sworn in as chief minister with the support of dissident Congress MLAs and BJP legislators. The Congress rebels joined the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) later.
The top court’s order on Wednesday to maintain pre-December 15 status quo means the MLAs who went away to PPA are now Congress members, Tuki said. “And so the Congress strength is now 45, as it was then. I have appealed to those who joined the other camp to return and take part in the floor test. All of them will have to abide by the decision of the Congress legislature party,” he said.
Arunachal gover nor JP Rajkhowa, who got a rap from the apex court for his actions leading to the Tuki government’s fall, was reportedly in Guwahati, the hotbed of action where Pul brought his flock of Congress dissidents to guard against poaching. Rajkhowa is on leave for medical reasons. He was discharged from hospital last Monday, but chose to recuperate in the Assam capital.