The Union cabinet today recommended President's rule in Congress-ruled Arunachal Pradesh while the Supreme Court is looking into the frontline state's political ferment, which has been marked by "Assembly sessions" in a community hall and a hotel.
The cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, had an unscheduled meeting this morning - a Sunday. The recommendation needs to be endorsed by the President.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to take up on Wednesday a case on the political developments in the state. There is no legal bar on the Centre from recommending President's rule while a case is pending but the moral rectitude of the action was questioned by incumbent chief minister and Congress leader Nabam Tuki.
Tuki told The Telegraph this evening that he would approach the Supreme Court and the President. "I got the news from television channels. Don't know why the cabinet has recommended President's rule instead of waiting for the Supreme Court's decision.
"The Centre can do whatever it wants but it cannot weaken the Congress in the state. The only objective is to overthrow a democratically elected popular government."
At the root of the stand-off is a rebellion in the Congress, following which the BJP closed ranks with the breakaway group.
As many as 21 of the 47 members in the ruling dispensation had revolted against Tuki, who had bucked the national trend and led the Congress to victory in 42 of the 60 Assembly seats. Later, five MLAs merged with the Congress.
In December, the 21 rebel MLAs joined hands with 11 BJP members and 2 Independents, held "Assembly sessions" in a community hall and later in a hotel, "impeached" the Speaker who had disqualified 14 rebels, voted out Tuki and elected a dissident Congress MLA, Kalikho Pul, as the chief minister's successor.
Pul had been dropped from the ministry in April last year on the charge of inciting dissidence against Tuki.
The role of governor J.P. Rajkhowa, a former bureaucrat appointed by the Narendra Modi government in May 2015, came under the scanner after he modified the Speaker's schedule and advanced the Assembly session by almost a month. Critics felt that the session had been brought forward to facilitate a quick trial of strength and oust Tuki.
Gauhati High Court eventually kept in abeyance all the decisions taken by the impromptu "Assembly sessions" and observed that prima facie, the governor's action appeared to violate the Constitution. The next hearing in the high court is on February 1.
However, the high court also dismissed the Speaker's petition challenging his "impeachment". The Speaker, Nabam Rebia, has since then gone to the Supreme Court.
It is in the middle of the legal battles that the Centre has recommended President's rule.
BJP sources claimed in New Delhi that members of the Nyishi indigenous community, the dominant group in Arunachal, had begun congregating in Itanagar, the state capital, and the central action was intended at avoiding any untoward incident.
The BJP sources said that traditionally, the community, to which Tuki belongs, has been seen as Congress supporters.
However, sources in Itanagar said the rebel group too has a few Nyishi leaders, who were bringing supporters to the capital to create an impression that matters were coming to a head.
BJP sources said the Centre's perception was that given Arunachal's strategic location bordering China, New Delhi could not afford a long spell of political instability.
The BJP sources, not wanting to be quoted, said that for the past six months Arunachal had been in a "mess".
But Arunachal government spokesperson Bamang Felix said: "The answer why the central cabinet took the decision will be with Prime Minister Modi. Everything is peaceful and normal here: a tourism fest is under way in the Kameng river in East Kameng district. The chief minister is discharging his duties and responsibilities as usual, including looking after preparations for Republic Day."
The BJP also contended that six months had passed since the last Assembly session was convened, terming it "unconstitutional".
"Leaving aside everything else, why is the Congress not ready to face a floor test in the Assembly? It is a given that when a government's majority is in doubt, within 24 hours or so, a floor test is called," BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said in New Delhi.
This New is Originally Posted on THE TELEGRAPH