The Centre on Tuesday brought Arunachal Pradesh under President’s rule and kept the assembly under suspended animation after more than a month of political turmoil and in the midst of a raging battle in the Supreme Court, a decision that came under strong attack from Congress and other parties which called it ‘murder’ of democracy.
After intense consultations over the last two days, President Pranab Mukherjee gave assent to the Union cabinet’s recommendation, accepting the ground that there was a ‘constitutional breakdown’ in the state.
‘Taking cognisance of the constitutional breakdown that has taken place in the state of Arunachal Pradesh as reported by the governor, the Union cabinet, in its meeting held on January 24, 2016, had recommended to the President of India to issue such a proclamation,’ said a Union home ministry statement.
It said the President has signed a Proclamation under Article 356 (1) of the Constitution, imposing President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh and keeping the legislative assembly of the state in suspended animation with effect from Tuesday.
Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki slammed the Centre and vowed to knock the doors of the Supreme Court in this matter.
“I had a feeling that they (Centre) will do this as this was their intention. But we aren’t nervous, we will fight... We will fight this battle legally...We will seek justice from the Supreme Court,” Tuki said.
Rejecting the Centre’s claim that law and order has deteriorated in the state, Tuki said, “Point to me even a single questionable law and order situation in Arunachal Pradesh? They can't, because there is none. Arunachal Pradesh is a peaceful state, you can go and see and give a report.”
Tuki also met senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal to discuss the matter
The President signed the proclamation two days after the cabinet held an unscheduled meeting on Sunday to recommend that the state be brought under central rule.
Minister of State for Home Kirren Rijiju had said the cabinet was forced to take the decision because of a Constitutional breakdown as six months had lapsed between two sessions of the state assembly.
The Congress, the Janata Dal-United, the Communist Party of India and the Aam Aadmi Party attacked the Centre’s decision as ‘murder’ of democracy and federalism and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre of ‘insulting’ the highest court of the country that is right now hearing the matter.
The BJP, however, defended the decision saying it needs to be seen from multiple perspectives and is as per Constitutional mandate and in turn accused the Congress of politicising the issue.
“This is murder of democracy...The matter is sub-judice and government has acted in haste. It is a clear-cut insult to the highest court of the land. Democracy has been murdered,” Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal compared the imposition of President’s rule to an Emergency-like condition.
‘Prez rule in Arunachal Advaniji was right in saying that there are Emergency-like conditions in the country (sic),’ he tweeted.
On Monday, Dr Mukherjee called Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and put some queries to him on the need for the imposition of President’s rule even as Congress, the ruling party in the state, met him and opposed the cabinet decision.
The party urged the President not to give assent to the cabinet decision saying the issue was before the Supreme Court which has decided to hear the Congress petition on Wednesday.
Arunachal Pradesh has been rocked by a political crisis since December 16 last year when 21 rebel Congress MLAs joined hands with 11 of BJP and two independents to ‘impeach’ Assembly Speaker Nabam Rebia at a makeshift venue, in a move branded as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ by the speaker.
Up in arms against Tuki, 21 rebel party MLAs, including 14 disqualified a day before, with the help of the BJP and independent legislators, congregated at a community hall after the state Assembly complex was ‘sealed’ by the local administration, and ‘impeached’ Rebia in an impromptu session chaired by Deputy Speaker T Norbu Thongdok.
A day later, in a bizarre turn of events, opposition BJP and rebel Congress MLAs congregated in a local hotel to ‘vote out’ Tuki and to ‘elect’ a rebel Congress MLA in his place but the Gauhati high court intervened to keep in ‘abeyance’ decisions taken at the rebel ‘session’.
A ‘no confidence’ motion moved by BJP MLAs and Independent MLAs was ‘adopted’ with Thongdok, who is also a rebel Congressman, in the Chair.
A total of 33 members in the 60-member house, including 20 dissident Congress MLAs, later ‘elected’ another dissident Congressman Kalikho Pul as the new ‘chief minister’ of the state.
In the high court, Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed prima facie the governor’s decision to advance the Assembly session to December 16, 2015 for taking up the impeachment proceedings against the speaker was in ‘violation of Article 174 and 175 of the Constitution’.
The Supreme Court has referred a batch of petitions on the Arunachal Pradesh crisis to a Constitution Bench.
The CPI expressed shock over the development and questioned the timing of the decision.
“We are shocked and saddened. On Republic Day, the President has given assent to the recommendation. He should have questioned the government on this,” CPI’s national secretary D Raja said.
The Rajya Sabha member also hit out at Prime Minister Modi over his ‘cooperative federalism talk’.
“It is an irony that Modi talks about cooperative federalism,” Raja said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the party ‘will fight central rule in Arunachal Pradesh tooth and nail’.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that te BJP wants its government everywhere and President’s rule can’t be imposed only because people of Arunachal didn’t favor the BJP. He also said that Arunachal is a sensitive area and destabilising the government there can be a serious security risk for the country.