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President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh: BJP waits for SC verdict as Congress musters support against Centre

Sharing its borders with China and Myanmar, the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh has had never been subject of so much national attention barring those times when Beijing mischievously issues stapled visas to the people from the state seeking to visit the neighbouring country. Another issue that draws national attention towards this state is when students and job seekers from the state face either harassment or violence in places like Delhi or Bangalore.

The kind of nonpareil attention the unfolding political situation in Arunachal Pradesh is getting marks a new phenomena for the state. That could be taken as one healthy development out of an ugly saga of political intrigue. After all, the seven-sister states in the North-East have so far seen imposition of President's Rule or an extension of it for 27 times but it has never ever dominated political and public discourse earlier up to this level.

The Supreme Court's order on Wednesday seeking the governor's report in flat 15 minutes that suggested breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state and recommended imposition of President's Rule is interpreted differently by various political parties. After hearing Congress' petition the apex court issued notices to the Centre seeking its response by Friday before fixing coming Monday as the day of next hearing. The Congress will file fresh petition challenging the President's Rule. Today's hearing was on a related constitutional matter emanating due to conflict between the stance of the state Governor on the one side and Assembly Speaker and chief minister on the other.

The issue here is three-fold -- legality and constitutionality, morality and of political dynamics. The proceedings in the apex court and the view it takes will of course be on the legality and constitutionality but it will have a huge bearing on polity and on the question of morality and ethics for BJP and the Congress.

Warring over Arunachal Pradesh. Reuters

Warring over Arunachal Pradesh. Reuters

The Centre is convinced that the governor had satisfied himself that there was indeed a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state. The state did not see an Assembly session within six months of the last one held as is mandated by the provisions of the Constitution. Then there was the lockdown of the state Assembly following which the Winter Session could not be held. A no-confidence resolution against the Speaker that was to be held as per the directive of the Governor also could not be conducted. The governor had reportedly without consulting the chief minister or his council of ministers advanced the date of session from 14 January to 16 December and even sought the removal of the Speaker of the Assembly as the first item on the agenda.

Nevertheless, based on the report of the governor, the Union cabinet on 25 January decided that the circumstances were such in the state that required President's Rule to be imposed. President Pranab Mukherjee taking his own time in deliberating over the issue including seeking clarification from the Centre and seeking legal opinions from leading constitutional experts finally gave his assent to the decision of the Union cabinet.

The Congress obviously thinks otherwise and the matter is now before the Supreme Court. In its press conferences Congress has chosen to blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS for a vertical split in its own party and for allegedly using the governor's offices to settle political scores.

The Congress on its part however has a lot of explanation to do. The party is silent on what caused the vertical split in its legislature party in Arunachal Pradesh. The party neither called a meeting of its legislators nor it sought to prove its majority on the floor of the House when it was obvious that the Nabam Tuki-led government was reduced to a minority. The Congress went to the extent of disobeying gubernatorial orders on holding an Assembly session and blocked a no-confidence motion against the Speaker. It rather sought to blame the prime minister by terming it as a part of his intolerance politics.

Politically this issue becomes important because the Congress is using this as an opportunity to unite other opposition parties against the Modi government. JD(U) and AAP are already in its side. Notwithstanding the political factor, the BJP is trying to make it amply clear that it was only responding to a situation of "breakdown of constitutional machinery" in the state. It's clear that the BJP has a political motive as it is backing the Congress rebels. But does it actually have enough ground to dismiss the Tuki government is the key issue. The answer to this question will to an extent determine whether it will get support of other parties in getting the presidential proclamation ratified by the both Houses of Parliament in the Budget session.

Firstpost has learnt that after closely watching the Supreme Court's observations, the BJP will decide on its next move -- formation of an alternate government (as of now Congress rebels count 21, BJP 11 and 2 Independents in the 60-member state Assembly) or seek dissolution. That move will have to be done before the Supreme Court gives its final order. The courts are known to take their own time on pronouncing its judgment when the issue of constitutional validity of a decision is to be decided.

The BJP believes that the number of Congress rebels would swell in due course and an alternate government led by Congress rebels would be installed. In that case the Modi government would be able to avoid the trouble of managing numbers in Rajya Sabha for ratification of President's Rule. The Modi government has played a bold political gamble. It could even be a calculated risk. Senior party leaders are just hoping that this time around they don't have to suffer any ignominy.

Updated Date: Jan 28, 2016 08:04 AM

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