Congress CM, 42 MLAs defect to BJP ally in Arunachal

Itanagar : In a dramatic development, the Congress lost its government in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday when Chief Minister Pema Khandu along with 42 MLAs defected to the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Two independents, supporting the Khandu-led Congress government, also joined the PPA — a member of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a recently formed anti-Congress alliance led by the BJP.

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Khandu told reporters that he had informed Speaker Wangki Lowang that “we are merging the Congress with the PPA”.

PPA chairperson Kameng Ringu said the Congress MLAs joining his party was something waiting to happen. “It is a homecoming after a temporary exile,” Ringu told IANS after the surprising political development in the state.

“Out of 46 MLAs supporting the government, 43 Congress MLAs including the Chief Minister and two Independents have joined the PPA,” he said.

The Congress has 44 legislators in the house of 60. The only Congress MLA who has not defected is former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

Tuki was replaced as the chief minister in July when the Congress stemmed a rebellion in the party and made Khandu the head of the state government.

After the mass exodus from the Congress, the PPA has a strength of 45 legislators now. Besides, there are 11 BJP MLAs.

The sensitive border state has been reeling under a political crisis since December last when the then Governor J.P. Rajkhowa advanced the assembly session from January 14 to December 16. The move triggered political unrest and finally led to the declaration of President’s Rule on January 26.

Khandu, son of former Chief Minister late Dorjee Khandu, became the ninth Chief Minister of the state after a July Supreme Court order reinstated the Congress government following months of political crisis.

Tuki’s government had collapsed after Congress rebels led by Kalikho Pul joined hands with the BJP and voted it out in a special session of the assembly. After some months of President’s Rule, Pul took over as the Chief Minister in February with support from the BJP.

Khandu was on July 17 unanimously elected the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Pul was found dead on August 9, weeks after he was forced to resign following the Supreme Court order.