Itanagar, Sept 16: The Congress today lost its government in Arunachal Pradesh to a BJP-led front when 43 of its MLAs led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu defected wholesale and merged with the People's Party of Arunachal, just two months after it had regained power.
Khandu, who had replaced Nabam Tuki following a dissident campaign in July, paraded 42 MLAs before Assembly Speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, who accepted their joining the PPA, Assembly sources said.
The PPA had five MLAs who had joined the Congress in 2014. Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarmah, convenor of the North East Development Alliance (NEDA), claimed that with PPA entering the NEDA, in which the 11-member BJP has considerable influence, the Khandu government is for all purposes an NDA government.
The merger would be notified in the Assembly bulletin, formalising the political development that leaves Congress with governments only in Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram in the northeast.
The dramatic development in Arunachal Pradesh brought back memories of the famous 'aya ram, gaya ram' episode involving Bhajan Lal, who was heading a Janata Party government in Haryana and defected lock, stock, and barrel with all the party MLAs to the Congress after Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980.
The Congress in New Delhi dubbed the new government in Arunachal as an "illegitimate child of BJP" and a diabolical design to decimate democracy. Justifying the defection, Khandu said that it was in the interest of the state and the people.
"It is an undeniable fact that for a resource-stressed state like Arunachal it has to depend on the Centre for all its needs. It is difficult to make things done at the Centre with political differences, he told reporters. Tuki was the only Congress MLA who did not join PPA, a constituent of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) which was formed on May 24 in Guwahati.
Khandu on July 16 had become the chief minister after months of political turmoil that unseated Tuki, who himself was reinstated as chief minister by the apex court only two days before.
In a House of 60, the Congress had 44 MLAs with one seat falling vacant after former chief minister Kalikho Pul committed suicide on August 9, while the BJP has 11 members including two Independents.
The status of two Congress MLAs is yet to be decided as they put in their papers before the recent series of political developments that led to first Tuki government falling in January this year, imposition of President's rule and installation of the late Kalikho Pul government on February 19 for a short span.
Pul was forced to resign in July 13 following a Supreme Court judgement. On March 3 last, Pul along with 29 Congress MLAs joined the PPA. PPA CWC chairman Kameng Ringu termed the development as a "homecoming" after a short temporary self exile of the party.