The Message From Arunachal By-Polls
Will CM Khandu survive 2018?
ITANAGAR: Christmas came a day early for the ruling BJP in Arunachal Pradesh which managed to secure victories in both the by-elections of Likabali and Pakke-Kessang assembly constituencies.
At Likabali, Kardo Nyigyor secured 3,461 votes from the total vote count of 7,677 beating his nearest rival, Gumke Riba of the PPA, by just 305 votes. Nyigyor’s victory was helped by a 1,460-vote lead that he secured from Gensi circle in the second round of counting.
Independent candidate Sengo Taipodia managed to get 375 votes while the Congress’ Modam Dini secured 362 votes. 23 people chose the None Of The Above (NOTA) option.
This bye-election was marred by controversy.
Riba had joined the regional People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) from the BJP just days before the election after being denied a ticket. Riba and his supporters claimed that the party was overlooking a veteran of the BJP and were dissatisfied with the decision.
Political in-fighting aside, voters from five out of the nine polling stations in Kangku circle in Lower Siang district boycotted the by-poll to further their ‘No Road, No Vote’ stance against the government’s continued alleged apathy towards the people of the area.
The Likabali by-poll also witnessed violence in Siberite polling station in Gensi where some people broke EVMs because they were not working. Also at Gensi, at the Dibe polling station votes could not be cast due to faulty machines. Re-polling was conducted at both polling stations on Saturday.
The by-poll was necessitated following the death of health and family welfare minister, Jomde Kena on September 4.
At Pakke-Kessang, the BJP’s BR Waghe defeated former deputy chief minister and Congressman Kameng Dolo in a straight fight between the two.
In a close battle, the veteran politician lost only his second election since entering electoral politics back in the eighties, by just 479 votes. Waghe managed to get 3603 votes against Dolo’s 3124.
Waghe, a relative newcomer in comparison, had the backing and the advantage of contesting from a BJP ticket in a state where voting trends are often influenced depending on which party is in power in the Centre.
The campaigning saw heavy canvassing from the BJP which had roped in Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, apart from chief minister Pema Khandu and deputy chief minister, Chowna Mein.
During the campaign period, there were allegations that the BJP state government was influencing votes by ordering government officials in the constituency to work in favour of its candidate and tilt the vote in its favour.
Congress state president, Takam Sanjoy, had alleged that the state government told government officers to campaign in support of the BJP, warning them of harsh transfers if they failed to do so.
Chief minister Pema Khandu, who said that “this Christmas celebration has become all the more special” after the results were announced, had his first real test since taking over the reins of the state government last year. He and his MLAs changed party loyalties twice last year, jumping from the Congress to the PPA and again to the BJP at the end of the year.
Ever since that last minute dramatic jump to the BJP, his rival Takam Pario of the PPA has been attempting to oust him from the chief minister’s post.
Even before the elections, MLAs were meeting at hotels (the go-to venue for political plotting in the state) in the capital, Itanagar. Sources confirmed that a number of PPA MLAs are housed at one hotel and reportedly some BJP legislators are in favour of a coup. It remains unclear as to what is the exact plan of action is as the MLAs are being tight-lipped on the matter.
One source said that they are allegedly waiting for the governor to return from his tour of Delhi where he currently is, to prove their majority.
Today, Khandu denied any political storm brewing in the power corridors of the state after his return from New Delhi where he held a series of meeting with Union ministers, including prime minister Narendra Modi.
The chief minister’s meeting with Modi has made him confident as he dismissed talk of an imminent coup happening.
“There may be a problem amongst nine PPA MLAs but the BJP state government is all fine and stands for the welfare of the state,” he told reporters here.
While Khandu may have managed to orchestrate wins in two constituencies and bolstered his confidence, the holiday this season may get cut short. With 2017 coming to a close, Khandu will be hoping the holiday cheer and the confidence carries on until next year.