In less than two months, the Congress is back to square one and is yet again facing a battle of survival in Arunachal Pradesh.
The political battle against the party has been launched by its own chief minister Pema Khandu who has the support of 43 other MLAs. Now, 44 out of 45 Congress MLAs in the state, including Khandu, have quit the Congress and joined the People's Party of Arunachal (PPA). Congress now stares at the prospect of losing power in the state which has been seen as one of its key bastions in the north-east as it would now 'virtually' become a PPA-led government.
PPA is a regional party in Arunachal Pradesh and is seen as having 'friendly ties' with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The BJP has 11 MLAs in the state assembly. Friday's development would not fall under the anti-defection law as more than two-thirds of party's total legislative strength have switched over thereby leaving very little legal resolution for the party.
The defection is being seen a sign of the central leadership's inability to quell the growing dissatisfaction in the state riddled with a constitutional crisis over the last few moths. “I have met the assembly speaker and informed him that we are merging the Congress with the People's Party of Arunachal or PPA," Khandu was quoted as saying in a news report by television channel, NDTV.
The news report added that the only legislator who did not jump the ship is Nabam Tuki, who had earlier this year served as a chief minister when the Congress party was in a damage control mode to curb rebellion. Khandu was sworn in as chief minister on 17 July, replacing Tuki as a consensus candidate after the party's state unit was stung with rebellion. Khandu had staked claim to forming government after he had support of 45 party MLAs along with two independents. The constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh started earlier this year when Congress MLAs rebelled.
After a brief period of President's rule in the state earlier this year, dissident leader Kalhiko Pul took oath as the chief minister of the north-eastern state, dislodging Tuki. In a tragic turn of events in August, Pul was found dead at his residence in Itanagar after he allegedly committed suicide.