Itanagar: In a dramatic turnaround in Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress party on Saturday replaced Chief Minister Nabam Tuki by choosing a new leader Pema Khandu, who staked claim to power on the basis of support of 45 party MLAs along with two Independents.
In fast-changing developments, Khaliko Pul, rebel-turned chief minister, who was unseated by the Supreme Court, returned to the party fold with 30 dissident MLAs.
Hours ahead of a scheduled floor test in the Assembly, which Tuki was directed by Governor Tathagat Roy to take, the
Congress Legislature Party met and elected 37-year-old Pema Khandu, son of late chief minister Dorjee Khandu, as its new leader.
Tuki proposed the name of Khandu, which was unanimously accepted by 44 MLAs who were present. Speaker Nabam Rebia did not attend the meeting while ousted chief minister Khaliko
Pul attended the meeting with the rebel MLAs.
In the 60-member House with an effective strength of 58, Congress now claims the support of 47 MLAs, including two independents.
Ahead of the CLP meeting, Tuki met the Governor and told him of his intention to resign as CLP chief and as chief minister and of the Congress party's decision to elect a new leader.
He told reporters in the presence of Khandu that in view of these developments he told the Governor that he would not be taking a floor test.
Khandu also told the media that he has staked claim to power with the Governor on the basis of support of 47 MLAs, including two independents, and that he should be sworn in.
He said the Governor has not given any commitment yet as he told them that he has to go through records and process their claim.
"Right now the Governor has not commented (on their claim). No time has been given for oath taking," said Khandu, who has been a minister in the state earlier.
Saturday's developments have come as a major boost for the Congress in the state which was rocked by dissidence since November last year, which led to the toppling of its government and ushering in of a new one headed by Pul with the backing of rebels and outside support of 11 BJP MLAs.
Khandu said, "Now there are no differences and the Congress is united at the intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi."
Tuki, who went to the Governor along with Khandu and handed over his resignation, acknowledged that there were problems in the party and compared them to differences within a home.
"I was repeatedly asked in the last few days and I used to say that Congress is strong in Arunachal Pradesh and is united. Now 47 out of 60 MLAs are with us," he said.
The outgoing chief minister said the BJP sought to break Arunachal Pradesh and divide and finish the Congress party.
Asked about Assam minister Himanta Biswas' statement that the north east would become Congress-free, Tuki shot back saying, "how can a leader in a democracy talking of decimating another party. That shows BJP's intolerance of opposition."
On his election as CLP leader, Khandu said "it's a big challenge as expectations are high"....