For many an Indians Itanagar may be an unfamiliar name. Even they may not be aware that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. They would not feel awkward in naming the people of the north-east as ‘Nepalese’ or even ‘Chinsese’! Not many of them would be able to identify the different states of the north-east and name their capitals and chief ministers correctly.
So much is the ignorance level of an average Indian about our most sensitive border region located in the northeast corner. Once, a very prominent person from our security forces said that even for the policy makers and decision makers, India cease to exist beyond Kolkata. Such is the shocking apathy that our planners and administrators harbour towards this region. But suddenly, the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh-one of the most relatively peaceful state of the region- has made it a hot topic of public discussion and political discourse in our country.
Politically speaking Arunachal Pradesh is not a very important or impressive state as compared to Maharashtra, UP or Karnataka that can impact the course of political happenings. With a mere strength of 60 MLAs, the state is most unlikely to influence the course of national politics at present. The only reason that this tiny state finds its mention in the so called national mainstream media and political discourse is the government that ruled this state belonged to the Congress party which is fighting to recapture its lost place, prestige and pride in the contemporary political scenario.
With imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh on January 26- the Republic Day- by the Narendra Modi Government, the Congress party, its secular brigade of anti-BJP parties and their self-proclaimed media ideologues began to take on the BJP and particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi full steam. They even approached the Supreme Court challenging the Presidential Order but had to face defeat as the apex court refused to entertain their petition. The Congress even accused the Modi government of insulting the Supreme Court. But nothing came to save them from the embarrassment they faced on this issue.
Congress mismanagement: Arunachal Pradesh assembly went to polls in 2014 along with the General Elections. The Congress emerged victorious in the elections bagging 42 out of 60 seats. With such a formidable majority, the party was placed in a position to provide a stable government to that Himalayan border state. The party elected Nabam Tuki as its chief minister. Tuki was serving the state as chief minister since November 2011.
The BJP emerged the largest Opposition party with its tally of 11 MLAs. It had for the first time allied in 1998 with a regional party of Gegong Apang, who broke away from the Congress, joined BJP and became Chief Minister. BJP was looking forward to make dent in to the Tuki government. But the Congress did not have any inkling of this plan.
Besides BJP, the People’s Party of Arunachal bagged 5 seats, and independents secured only two. PPA later merged with the Congress taking its tally to 47. In spite of such a strong majority, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki was not aware of the revolt brewing in his party against him. When he came to know of this he removed his Health Minister Kalikho Pul from the cabinet. Pul accused the government of financial misappropriation and scams. He also started garnering support of the party MLAs who were in mood of rebellion against Tuki. Pul invited expulsion from the party for this act of fanning revolt.
But the unrest within the Congress did not stop here. More MLAs have started joining the anti-Tuki camp and soon their number rose to 21! The BJP acted smart in extending support to them in order to facilitate formation of an alternative government.
In November 2015 these rebel MLAs moved legislation against the Speaker Nabum Rebia because he was considered to be close to chief minister Nabam Tuki. At this stage, the Governor stepped in complicating the crisis in the state. Instead of consulting the Chief Minister he suo moto convened the session of the House dragging the BJP in the controversy.
When the Speaker refused to convene the House in the Assembly premises, the rebels along with the BJP and independent MLAs convened a session on December 16-17, 2015 at a hotel. This was presided by Dy Speaker T Norbu Thongdok and passed a no-trust motion against the Chief Minister with a majority of 33. They passed the impeachment resolution against the Speaker and elected Pul as the new leader of the House.,
Speaker moves High Court: Meanwhile, Speaker Nabum Rebia moved the Guwahati High Court against this move and the court granted stay till February. The Guwahati High Court had also stayed the suspension of 14 Congress rebel MLAs. This has put the Chief Minister in a difficult situation. Tuki moved the Supreme Court against this decision of the High Court. Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet approved imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in view of the political instability and uncertainty and recommended the same to the President who signed the Presidential Order on January 26.
The Congress took it as affront and approached the Supreme Court challenging the Presidential Order. The Constitution Bench of Justice Jagadish Singh Kehar, Justice Deepak Mishra, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice P C Ghosh, and Justice N V Raman sought the report of the Governor along with other documents on the basis of which the Centre invoked Article 356 in the state.
Governor J P Rajkhowa sent in his report on January 28 as per the instructions of the apex court.
The matter came up for hearing on February 1 before the Supreme Court. The apex court, however, withdrew its notice to the Governor that it issued on the Congress petition. Following the arguments of Attorney General Mukul ROhatagi and Governor’s pleader Satyapal Jain, the Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice J S Kehar announced withdrawal of its notice issued five-days earlier to the Governor. Rohtagi argued that such a notice cannot be issued to Constitutional authorities like President and Governor.
Startling revelation in Governor’s Report: The Governor’s report did not mention only loss of majority by the Tuki government as the only reason for invoking Article 356. The report contained such explosive material that necessitated imposition of President’s Rule. The most serious amongst them were alleged relations of the Chief Minister with the militants of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) Khaplang Group and threat to him and his family. The Governor also cited financial irregularities as one of the reasons for imposing Central Rule.
In fact, there were reports of the Nabam Tuki government enlisting the help of the proscribed Khaplang-led faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) that is active in the three districts of Longding, Tirap and Changlang bordering Nagaland and Myanmar to coerce MLAs from these three areas to stay loyal to the Congress.
Central intelligence reports say that the NSCN(K) did issue threats to the MLAs to stay loyal to the Congress, and they have meekly complied. Also, the political crisis had triggered a sharp divide among the ethnic tribes of the state, and the state was staring at the dangerous prospect of an outbreak of ugly ethnic clashes and a breakdown of law and order before President’s Rule was imposed. In fact, this was one reason for the imposition of President’s rule; had the Nabam Tuki government been allowed to continue, the law and order situation in this strategically critical and sensitive border state would have spiralled out of control.
Rijiju blames Congress for the political mess: Meanwhile, the Union Minister of State for Home Kiran Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh blamed the Congress over President’s Rule in the state. He accused the Congress of imposing Central Rule in various states on ‘flimsy grounds’ on a number of occasions in the past.
“President Rule is imposed only in a special case. Congress Party had imposed PR more than 100 times on flimsy grounds, including Arunachal Pradesh in the past,” Rijiju said in a Facebook post after Central rule was imposed in the border state.
Rijiju said Congress must apologise to the people of Arunachal Pradesh for failing to remain as united, corruption free and accountable to the people. The Union Minister of State for Home said Congress MLAs were not small kids who can be forced by others. “If the Centre was in a hurry it could have intervened when the Assembly was sealed or when Raj Bhavan was seized with ugly slaughtering of precious Mithuns, closing and burning of tyres at Raj Bhavan roads by Congress leaders,” he said.
According to Rijiju, the Centre acted only when no option was left and the President is fully satisfied with the Cabinet decision.
“The more Congress tries to blame others by hiding their gross failure the more they will be exposed as they are the only party who ruled Arunachal for more then 40 years,” he said. Rijiju said people of Arunachal will not be fooled repeatedly.
The futile Congress protests: The picturesque Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh which borders Tibet and Myanmar on its north and the east has been in the grip of an unseemly political crisis for nearly three months now, and despite the Congress’ sanctimonious protestations over the ‘subversion of the Constitution’ and ‘murder of democracy’ triggered by the imposition of President’s Rule in the state, it has only itself to blame for the crisis.
But the Congress, on its part, can hardly cry foul. It was its own internal dissidence that led to this crisis. And the party is ill-suited to accuse the BJP of misusing its powers by invoking Article 356 and imposing President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh. The Kapil Sibals and Anand Sharmas of the Congress should look up the party’s history and see for themselves how this particular Article was misused by successive Congress regimes in the Centre to dismiss democratically-elected non-Congress governments in various states of the country.
Central Rule in the past: President’s Rule has been imposed as many as 112 times in 28 states of the country with Article 356 being invoked the highest number of times in Manipur (10 times), followed by Uttar Pradesh (nine times), Punjab and Bihar (eight times each) and Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Pondicherry (six times each). Almost always, it was the Congress government at the Centre which invoked this controversial Article.
Most of the time, it was the Congress in New Delhi dismissing democratically-elected non-Congress government, the most shameless dismissals being that of the EMS Namboodripad (Left Front) government in July 1959 and of the Karunanidhi and MGR governments in Tamil Nadu in January 1976 and February 1980.
It was Indira Gandhi who perfected the use of Article 356 to destabilize and dismiss democratically-elected non-Congress governments in the states. For the Congress to now cry foul and unfairly blame the BJP for a mess in Arunachal that is its own making is totally hypocritical.
By Virag Pachpore