DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
Ahigh-voltage political drama has gripped Aruchal Pradesh. That there is a rebellion within the ruling Congress targeted at ousting Chief Minister bam Tuki is, however, not the news. The real focus is on Governor J. P. Rajkhowa, a retired IAS officer installed recently by the Modi government at the Raj Bhawan in Itagar, whose actions in the past fortnight deserves serious scrutiny. The Congress, of course, has openly accused Governor Rajkhowa, a former chief secretary of Assam, of acting at the behest of the BJP to ‘destabilise’ the State’s elected government. And yes, Congress ministers were so agitated with the Governor that they heckled him during a meeting at the Raj Bhawan in Itagar and told him at his face he has ‘converted the Governor’s house into a BJP office.’ The Governor’s actions as well as his heckling are unprecedented because Chief Minister Tuki was part of the Congress ministerial delegation who had met Rajkhowa during the height of the unfolding political drama.
It is necessary to keep in mind, before any discussion on the Governor’s controversial actions, that governmental stability is extremely important in any frontier region, more so Aruchal Pradesh in view of exterl interests on the state and its territory. The difference between political instability and governmental instability must be understood because a government is beyond petty party politics. Aruchal Pradesh is known for its slippery political landscape and political coups against chief ministers. In 2003, the state presented the tion with a peculiar precedence when overnight, all legislators of the Aruchal Congress, a regiol party headed by then chief minister Gegong Apang, transformed themselves into BJP, and formed the northeastern region’s first ever BJP government! It is in this backdrop, that the institution of the Governor has a special place in states like Aruchal Pradesh where the incumbent at the Raj Bhawan is expected to carry out the role of a trusted Constitutiolly-guided statesman who can steer the government in crisis like the one being witnessed now.
How did the Governor land in this controversy? On November 3, the Governor had summoned the Aruchal Assembly for a session from January 14-18, 2016. In the meantime, Congress legislators moved for the removal of the Deputy Speaker, also a Congressman, for alleged anti-party activities. This was followed by the opposition BJP legislators sending in a notice for the removal of the Speaker, a known loyalist of Chief Minister Tuki. It was then that the Governor intervened by modifying the November 3 order and preponing the House session for three days starting December 16 to ‘ensure’ the resolution for the removal of the Speaker is ‘expeditiously placed’ before the House. The charge against the Governor is that he acted in undue haste and did not consult the Chief Minister and his Government before advancing the House session, an action the Congress calls unconstitutiol and politically motivated. The Governor has denied the charge and said whoever has doubts about his order can move the courts. The Gauhati High Court, meanwhile, has stayed the Governor’s orders until February 1. By then, however, 21 Congress dissidents, 11 BJP MLAs and two independent members met twice outside the Assembly premises and ‘passed resolutions’ removing the Speaker. The Congress dissidents on their part elected a new leader and declared the Tuki government has been reduced to a minority.
The question that has arisen is this—what difference would it have made had the Governor stuck to the decision to have the House session from January 14 and not advanced it? Was it proper for the Governor to also fix the agenda—that of taking up the motion for removal of the Speaker—after advancing the House session and authorising the Deputy Speaker to preside over the proceedings? Why did the Governor not think it necessary to consult the Chief Minister or the council of ministers before advancing the House session? After all, it was a notice for the removal of the Speaker, and this could have been taken up a month later without any impact being felt on the governce of the state. Chief Minister Tuki was facing an inner-party crisis but his government had not fallen yet. And, even if Tuki’s government was reduced to a minority, the simple way to deal with it would have been to call for a trial of strength on the floor of the House. As the Congress has alleged, ‘There is no Constitutiol crisis in Aruchal Pradesh but a Constitutiol violation that has taken place.’
The fate of the Tuki-led Congress government in Aruchal is the least important thing to be bothered about today. For New Delhi, the challenge now would be to restore the confidence of the elected representatives, and thereby, the people, on the Raj Bhawan in Itagar that had seen several top retired Army generals occupying it and completing their terms fairly smoothly. The Congress revolt may be an interl matter of the party but the Governor is part of an exalted public institution and, therefore, will always be open for public scrutiny. The matter will be fought in court in the days ahead. Until then, the onus will be on Governor Rajkhowa to fight the trust deficit and regain the confidence of all those elected by the people of Aruchal Pradesh who are now running the government in the state.