Assembly Elections: Arunachal Pradesh

Congress gamble

Print edition : June 13, 2014

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki on the first day of the second term in office in Itangar on May 19. Photo: PTI

In a polling booth during the second phase of the Lok Sabha election, in Itanagar on April 9. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The ruling Congress makes gains in Arunachal Pradesh, but the BJP’s vote share has made a quantum leap.

THE NABAM TUKI CABINET’S MOVE TO dissolve the fifth Arunachal Pradesh Assembly about six months before its term ended paid off. The ruling Congress swept the Assembly elections to retain power for a third consecutive term. It won 42 of the 60 seats, 11 of them uncontested. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 11 seats as against its tally of three in 2009. Also, in the Lok Sabha elections that were held simultaneously, the party wrested one of the two Lok Sabha seats from the Congress. The People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) won five seats, while independents won two.

In 2009, too, the Congress won 42 seats, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) five, the All India Trinamool Congress five, the BJP three, the PPA four and an independent one. However, the Congress’ strength in the Assembly increased to 55 after five NCP, four Trinamool Congress and four PPA legislators joined it. The lone Trinamool Congress legislator later joined the PPA.

The advancing of the Assembly elections in order to hold them simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections caught the opposition parties by surprise. This helped the Congress win 11 seats uncontested, including that of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki. These 11 seats are Mukto, Dirang, Seppa West, Pakke Kesang, Doimukh, Sagalee (Tuki’s constituency), Palin, Nyapin, Nacho, Taliha and Mebo. Congress candidate Newlai Tingkhatra, the Transport and Cooperation Minister who contested from the Kanubari Assembly constituency, was declared winner posthumously. He died of a heart attack in Gurgaon on May 7.

Vote share

The Congress polled 49.5 per cent of the votes in the Assembly elections as against its share of 50.38 per cent in 2009. The BJP won with 31 per cent of the votes, a quantum leap from the 5.21 per cent vote share it had in 2009. The PPA secured 9 per cent of the votes. The NCP, which failed to win any seat, got 3.8 per cent of the votes, while independents got 4.9 per cent.

The Naga People’s Front, the ruling party of Nagaland, polled less than the None of the Above (NOTA) votes. While 1 per cent of the voters opted for NOTA, the NPF vote share was only 0.7 per cent. The NPF contested in 11 seats.

Significantly, the BJP’s vote share (46.1 per cent) in this Lok Sabha elections in the State was higher than that of the Congress (42.1 per cent)—an indication that the Modi factor worked in the north-eastern State.

The BJP also wrested Arunachal West Lok Sabha constituency from the Congress, with senior BJP leader and former MP Kiren Rijuju defeating sitting MP Takam Sanjoy by 41,738 votes. The Congress managed to retain the Arunachal East seat, where former Union Minister and sitting MP Ninog Ering won against the BJP’s Tapir Gao by 12,478 votes. The new 60-member House will have two women members, both from the Congress—Karya Bagang, who retained her Chayangtajo seat in East Kameng district, and Gum Tayeng, winner from the Dambuk constituency in Lower Dibang Valley district. The outgoing Assembly, too, had only two women members. There are 19 new faces in the current Assembly.

Tuki’s challenge

Given the history of political instability in the State where disgruntled legislators have often toppled governments, Tuki faces the tough challenge of keeping his folk together. As the size of the Ministry will be limited to 12 including the Chief Minister, keeping the remaining 30 legislators happy will be Tuki’s biggest concern.

Just 40 days ahead of the elections, amidst dissent, Tuki dropped three of his Cabinet Ministers—Finance, Planning and Public Works Department Minister Chowna Mein, Health and Family Welfare Minister Atum Welly and Transport, State Transport Services and Cooperation Minister Jarkar Gamlin—and inducted three others into his 28-month-old Ministry.

The Chief Minister, however, denied that there was any dissidence in the party and said that the reshuffle was “routine” and had been carried out on the basis of the performance of the Ministers.

Mein also denied media reports that he was involved in any dissident activity and demanded a change of guard. Mein and Gamlin were re-elected, while Welly was denied the ticket by the Congress this time. Former Deputy Chief Minister Kameng Dolo won the seat unopposed on the Congress ticket.

Other prominent elected Congress representatives include former Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin, who quit the chair in the face of dissidence to pave the way for Tuki to take charge of the State on November 1, 2011.

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