Governor playing partisan role in Arunachal
Arunachal Pradesh, the sensitive north-eastern State bordering China, is currently in the throes of a political crisis. The Governor’s controversial role in handling – if not actually precipitating – the crisis has reached the Gawhati High Court.
But first a quick look at the series of recent events. On December 17, 33 members of the state Assembly, including 20 from Congress, 11 from opposition BJP and two Independents, removed the Speaker, Nabam Rebia, from his post at a composite session of the Assembly. The composite session’ that took place outside the assembly building, in a makeshift venue, with the full knowledge and consent of Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa.
Deputy Speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok presided over the session but abstained from voting. Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and 26 Congress MLAs loyal to the party, did not attend the session. The MLAs present elected Kalikho Pul as the ‘Leader of the House. Incidentally, Pul, a senior Congress leader, had resigned from the Tuki cabinet about a year ago, alleging financial irregularities.
The Congress immediately took the matter to the Gauhati High Court. Rebia moved a writ petition challenging the notification issued by the Governor, advancing the Assembly session from January 14, 2016, to December 16, 2015. It was in pursuance of this impugned order of the Governor that the rebels held a parallel House session the following day elsewhere, as the doors of the Assembly had been locked under the orders of the Speaker. Justice Roy of the High Court kept ‘in abeyance’ the impugned decision passed by the Assembly the previous day and fixed February 1, 2016, as the next date of hearing. Meanwhile, the Governor has threatened to challenge the order of the High Court, without clarifying whether he would approach a division bench of the High Court or go to the Supreme Court. That is how the matter stands now.
As pointed out earlier, the political crisis has been in the making for quite some time. There is no doubt that Chief Minister Tuki had alienated a sizeable section of Congress legislators who took their grievances to the party High Command in Delhi, but without much success. The High Command gave them a patient hearing but did not disturb Tuki. The Congress president summoned Tuki but what transpired between them is not known. The rebel Congress MLAs felt frustrated.
The charge against Tuki is that he is encouraging and indulging in corruption. Most of the top jobs in the administration have gone to his relations or cronies. The State’s revenue has fallen. The crime has graph risen, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of tourists in a State which promotes tourism as a major revenue earner.
Meanwhile, as dissidence against Tuki rose, six Cabinet ministers criticized him for his alleged misgovernance. Five of them were sacked in mid-October. Three political heavyweights, heading three State sector corporations, also resigned. They were Techi Lama, Tani Loffa and Toko Anil who headed the Monitoring and Vigilance Committee.
New Delhi was keenly watching the crisis brewing in Arunachal and the growing dissidence against Chief Minister Tuki. The BJP-led Centre decided to strike. It chose Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, a 1968-batch IAS officer who retired as Chief Secretary of Assam, to be the key actor in Operation Topple Tuki. The appointment of Rajkhowa as Governor of Arunachal Pradesh in June surprised many except those who knew his proximity to the BJP leadership.
His career as an administrator was undistinguished. For some time during the 1979-85 Assam agitation, which had a strong secessionist trend in it, Rajkhowa was the district head or Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup. It surprised many then that as a government servant he did not try to conceal his support and sympathy for the movement.
After Rajkhowa entered Raj Bhavan at Itanagar as its new tenant (his predecessor, Nirbhay Sharma, was quietly dispatched to Mizoram) things started moving quickly in Arunachal Pradesh. The suborning of dissident Congress MLAs began in right earnest. Congress dissidents and BJP legislators formed an unannounced united front for Operation Topple Tuki.
Acting in close concert with the legislators in the anti-Tuki camp (both Congress and BJP), the Governor advanced the scheduled date of the Assembly session and, when the Speaker locked the House, blessed the holding of the session in a ‘makeshift’ Assembly outside the precincts of the Assembly building.
In his writ petition before the Gauhati High Court, Chief Minister Tuki has challenged the impugned order of the Governor as being violative of Articles 174 and 175 of the Constitution. The ball is now literally in the court. It remains to be seen at whose door the Governor knocks next – a division bench of the Gauhati High Court or the Supreme Court.
Whatever the denouement, the recent political developments in Arunachal Pradesh have sent a strong message to 24 Akbar Road – be more responsive to and more accommodative of dissidents in the party. Don’t allow dissidence to snowball.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)