In a Supreme Court judgement on 13 July, Nabam Tuki-led Congress was restored in Arunachal Pradesh and the state Governor Tathagata Roy on Thursday reinstated Tuki as the Chief Minister. The judgement was pronounced historic by the Congress leaders, and termed it as a huge setback for the BJP.
On Saturday, just hours before the scheduled floor test, Tuki resigned at the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress, which has 47 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly, suffered a jolt when 21 of them rebelled. Eleven BJP MLAs backed the rebels in a bid to upstage the Nabam Tuki government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified. The state had been under President's Rule since 26 January.
After reinstating Tuki as the chief minister, Roy had set Saturday as deadline for Tuki to take the floor test to prove the majority of his government in the House. In fact, Tuki has attempted to defer the floor test, but his request was denied by the governor. The Indian Express had quoted him as saying that though he was confident of passing the floor test, he needed 10-15 days time to gather support. However, hours before the floor test, Tuki resigned as the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh and Pema Khandu has elected as the new Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader.
Reports suggested state Congress Committee president Padi Richo along with Nabam Tuki, newly-elected CLP leader Puland Jai Kumar will be meeting the Governor later to submit letters of support from the 44 Congress MLAs.
Sources within the Congress sources said that that rebel leader, Khaliko Pul, also attended the Congress Legislature Party meeting in which 44 MLAs were present.
The fact that Tuki was not sure of getting a majority in the House became evident when he tried to defer the floor test. After the Supreme Court judgement, Tuki had said that he would be consulting the Congress high command and hoped that the rebel leaders will come back to the party fold.
The Times of India had reported that Tuki was now under pressure to prove a majority wanted to buy time to win winning over legislators from rival Kalikho Pul's People's Party of Arunachal (PPA). The report also suggested that the Congress fearing its exit from the North East was also mulling removal of Tuki as the chief minister.
On Friday, the Itanagar bench of the Gauhati High Court had refused to admit a petition filed by MLAs from his camp for postponing the floor test. Earlier this year, the President's Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand after nine Congress MLAs rebelled against Chief Minister Harish Rawat, triggering a prolonged court battle. However, the courts ruled in favour of the Congress and Rawat won a crucial floor vote. Following Rawat's victory in Uttarakhand, the Congress party has sacrificed Tuki at the altar of political convenience in a deliberate attempt to delay the floor test and retain its government in Arunachal Pradesh.
Hours before Khandu was declared as the leader of the CLP, a source in the Congress party told IANS, "The CLP meeting is likely to elect Khandu as the CLP leader. After his election as the new CLP leader, Khandu will meet the Governor and prove the majority of his government in the House."
While the Congress was scrambling for votes, the BJP claimed that majority of the MLAs are against Tuki and that he will not emerge victorious in the floor test. Ram Madhav, BJP's national general secretary, had tweeted that a majority of the MLAs will go against Tuki.
43 out of total 58 MLAs are holding a Press Conference in Guwahati I am told. They all say they r against Tuki. Let Tuki face floor test
— Ram Madhav (@rammadhavbjp) July 14, 2016
Former Chief Minister Kalikho Pul, who had unseated Tuki in February this year with the help of a faction of dissident Congress legislators and BJP members, claimed that he has got the support of 42 legislators in the 60-member house, whose effective strength is 58 now after two members resigned earlier.
Pul, who is camping in a hotel in Guwahati since last two days with 42 legislators, also expressed fear that Tuki might try to resort to "horse trading" if more time is given for the floor test.
While Tuki had hinted that the party might reach out to Pul, the BJP vowed to make sure that rebels who went with Pul do not join the Congress again.
According to expert on North East politics, Kangkan Achharya, the Indian National Congress never saw Tuki as a leader. Tuki only was appointed the chief minister of the state after the sudden death of the then chief minister Dorjee Khandu. Pema Khandu is the son of Dorjee Khandu. Though ANI reported that there will be no floor test, with Tuki's resignation and Khandu as the CLP leader the Congress made sure even if there is a floor test, the party will win the test.
— ANI (@ANI_news) July 16, 2016
Pema Khandu on Saturday said that the governor will take a call whether the floor test will happen now or after the swearing-in ceremony.