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Arunachal Assembly elections

BJP elected to power

Print edition : Jun 07, 2019 T+T-
Pema Khandu,  Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister and the BJP’s Mukto constituency candidate, after winning the seat, in Tawang on May 23.

Pema Khandu, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister and the BJP’s Mukto constituency candidate, after winning the seat, in Tawang on May 23.

THE Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to form its first elected government in Arunachal Pradesh with a massive two-thirds majority, but it is faced with the tough challenge of curbing rising insurgency in the north-eastern State bordering China. The BJP won 41 seats, including three uncontested; the Janata Dal (United) seven; the National People’s Party (NPP) five; the Congress four; the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) one; and independents two.

Incumbent Chief Minister Pema Khandu won the Mukto Assembly seat defeating his nearest rival, the Congress’ Thupten Kunphen, by a margin of 2,619 votes in a straight contest. Khandu polled 4,304 votes while Kunphen polled 1,685 votes. In the 2014 Assembly election, Khandu was among the 12 Congress candidates who were elected unopposed. On December 31, 2016, Khandu along with 32 legislators of the PPA defected to the BJP and formed the BJP government for the second time. The first BJP government was formed in 2003.

Tirong Aboh, the sitting NPP legislator who was slain on May 21, two days before the results were announced, has been elected from Khonsa West constituency. Aboh was returning from Dibrugarh in Assam when his convoy of four vehicles was ambushed by suspected militants near Khonsa in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh. They gunned down Aboh and 10 others, including his son. The attackers also set ablaze one of the vehicles.

An official release issued by the State police described it as an attack by “UG [underground] elements” but did not name any outfit. No outfit claimed responsibility for the incident. The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaac-Muivah), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and other NSCN factions are active in the three districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding. The NSCN (I-M) has reportedly denied its involvement in the ambush and refuted media reports alleging its hand in the attack. The outfit has been engaged in peace talks with the Government of India since it signed a ceasefire agreement with New Delhi in 1997.

On April 1, the Centre extended the “disturbed area” tag under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, to areas in the three districts that fall under the jurisdiction of four police stations in Namasi, Lower Dibag and Lohit districts in the neighbouring State of Assam until September 30. Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts account for 12 Assembly seats.

Former Chief Minister Gegong Apang, who headed the first BJP government in the State in 2003, contested on the Janata Dal (Secular) ticket from Tuting-Yingkiong in Upper Siang district. He lost to the BJP’s Alo Libang by a margin of 1,609 votes. Apang quit the BJP in January alleging “undemocratic functioning” and joined the JD(S).

The Assembly election was held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha election in the State on April 11.

The BJP secured 51.53 per cent of the votes, the JD (U) 9.92 per cent, the NPP 13.97 per cent and the Congress 17.52 per cent.

In 2014, the Congress won 42 seats, 12 of them unopposed. The BJP won 11 seats then.

In its debut electoral performance in the State, the JD(U), the BJP’s ally in Bihar, achieved spectacular success, winning seven of the 15 seats it contested to become the second largest party in the 60-member Assembly. The JD(U) contested alone. Both the JD(U) and the Congress opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, but the Congress failed to push its campaign as it was left crippled by the defection of elected legislators first to the PPA and then to the BJP.

While the BJP has the numbers to provide a stable government for a full term, the government will face the daunting task of containing insurgency in order to pursue its development agenda for the State.