Easy come, easy go in a frontier State


Rahul Karmakar
Guwahati, March 22: The BJP first came to power in Arunachal Pradesh in 2003 without an electoral majority. Since 2016, the party has been again in power in the State – also without a majority. The BJP faces its first electoral test now, as elections to 2 Lok Sabha and 60 Assembly seats in the frontier State will be held on April 11.
The BJP got its first Government in Arunachal Pradesh on a platter in 2003 after former Chief Minister Gegong Apang, then the lone MLA of a regional party, made most of the ruling Congress legislators defect. But the BJP Government lasted only 8 months after most of the MLAs switched back to the Congress, which won the 2004 election comfortably under Apang.
While the Congress won 34 seats that year, only 9 of the BJP’s 39 candidates could make it. Tongam Rina, Editor of The Arunachal Times, says the BJP is in a stronger position this time. “In a State where Governments and MLAs change colours according to the tide, the BJP is quite confident of doing well in the Assembly polls. Besides, most of the heavyweights are with the BJP,” she says.
It all depends on how strong the candidates fielded by the main challenger Congress are. The Congress, headed by former MP Takam Sanjoy, is yet to come out with its list of candidates.
Arunachal Pradesh has had a history of political instability, but these 5 years have been the most volatile for the State. The Government of Nabam Tuki, who led the Congress to victory in 2014, was dismissed in January 2016 following a leadership tussle.
After less than a month of President’s Rule, Kalikho Pul was made the Chief Minister of a rebel Congress Government in February 2016. The Congress went to the Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s Government. Pul died an unnatural death in August.
Tuki, however, stepped aside to let Pema Khandu become the Chief Minister heading a Congress Government that soon switched to the regional People’s Party of Arunachal before becoming the BJP in December 2016.
Citizenship Bill
Issues in the State, Rina said, vary from area to area. But 2 issues – of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and of permanent resident certificate (PRC) for 6 non-tribal communities – could affect the BJP to some extent.
Unlike in Assam, where the Bill is seen as an invitation to “Bangladeshi Hindu” migrants, it is associated with Chakma, Hajong and Tibetan people in Arunachal Pradesh. The Chakma-Hajong people were displaced from East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in the 1960s and the Tibetans came with, or after the, 14th Dalai Lama.
Though the Khandu Government buried the PRC issue “forever”, the death of 3 people in anti-PRC protests in February brought back bitter memories. The BJP dropped Home Minister Kumar Waii, who allegedly let things get out of control, to send a signal to the voters.
Waii said he was victimised as Khandu felt he was a contender for the Chief Minister’s job. Party insiders said Khandu had his say in deciding the list which excluded all those who could be a threat to him. Among them are the siblings of former Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin.
Among the 6 BJP legislators dropped is Minister Jarkar Gamlin while the party overlooked Jarpum Gamlin, who resigned as general secretary of the party on Monday after being denied ticket for the Liromoba Assembly seat. The Congress, too, cold-shouldered a member of the Gamlin family – social worker Jarjum Ete who quit the party last week after being denied ticket for the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat. “The Congress did not give me the structural support I needed,” she said.(Courtesy: The Hindu)