The political mind game unfolding in Arunachal Pradesh could not be more intense. All directed to the sole objective of interpreting the Supreme Court verdict to suit their purposes and act accordingly to checkmate the rival political party.
It's interesting that all political groups and constitutional authorities concerned, the Governor and the Speaker in Itanagar vow by the Constitution, Supreme Court verdict and propriety, yet are doing everything possible to flout it, either by finding a loophole or grey areas in the judgment or by making twists and turns, throwing new technicalities and questions of law which could be settled by the court in due course and hoping to win the battle for now.
The Congress strategists made the surprise move on Saturday morning to remove the ousted-and-restored chief minister Nabam Tuki and elect Pema Khandu, son of former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, as the new Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader. The Speaker who happens to be Tuki's cousin had taken a position that he can't convene the Assembly in a two-day notice and hold the floor test.
By doing so the party had found a legitimate reason to not to hold the scheduled vote of confidence for Tuki government on Saturday. Since Nabam Tuki has already resigned, he does not need a floor test to prove his majority or otherwise. That could be taken as a smart move made by the Congress, at least under given circumstances when the numbers were clearly stacked against it. Only two days ago, ousted chief minister Kalikho Pul had paraded 42 MLAs in Guwahati.
But since the Supreme Court has turned the clock back to December 15, 2015, the Congress party can still technically claim that it has the numbers which even the Governor would be bound to accept now. It was only later that 30 of Congress MLAs led by Pul defected to People Party of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Governor's role becomes important here. Now that Supreme Court has come down heavily against the Governor JP Rajkhowa, currently on leave on account of illness, the acting governor Tathagata Roy would be expected to strictly go by the book. While he is expected to invite Pema Khandu to form the next government (going by the strength of Congress party as on December 15, 2015), but he may not oblige the Congress by giving an extended deadline to prove majority on floor of the House. The time in all likelihood would be short.
The Congress strategy and strength would be challenged again. As of now, the Congress has only 15 MLAs in the House of 60, but is hoping that some of the rebels would come back, since Tuki is no longer at the helm. Pul of the People Party of Arunachal Pradesh with a current count of 30 MLAs and BJP with 11 MLAs would make everything possible in their command to ensure that Congress does not get an easy passage to power. BJP's leader from Assam Himanata Biswa Sarna is on to the task and party president Amit Shah is being kept posted of all the developments.
On Saturday, the newly-appointed leader Pema Khandu claimed that the Congress has the support of 45 MLAs and two Independents.
The vote of confidence as and when it happens would be expected to contain all the drama. Two critical questions have to addressed before or on that day, with or without the judicial intervention, whether ousted and then restored Speaker Nabam Rebia would preside over the proceedings or the vote of confidence against him would be taken first. Secondly, what happens to the fate of 14 MLAs whom Rebia had expelled on December 15 on charges of indulgence in anti-party activities? So far, Rebia's conduct has not been above board and Supreme Court has made very strong observations on Speaker's conduct and laid down norms for future.
The Congress has pulled a surprise and saved the day for itself but it's going to be a tough weekend ahead. Can it sustain long to win the battle? The BJP has not revealed its counter strategy yet.