ITANAGAR: Ever since senior bureaucrat from Arunachal Pradesh, Kemo Lollen, was relieved from his post as Lower Subansiri deputy commissioner back on May 2, he has been engaged in a battle with Yachuli MLA Likha Saaya, accusing the legislator of misusing his powers to first initiate his transfer and later of forcing him to indulge in corrupt practices.

That battle today took a new turn with Saaya threatening to file a defamation suit worth Rs 100 crore against Lollen.

Signs that not everything was right began when Lollen challenged his transfer order on two occasions at court, by which time former ADC of Balijan, Chukhu Takar, had taken charge of the office of the deputy commissioner of the district. For at least a week after the transfer was issued, the district had two deputy commissioners. Lollen currently is not handling the affairs of the district administration.

Soon after, allegations began flying in from at least two organisations claiming to represent residents affected by the planned construction of the district’s section of the Trans-Arunachal Highway (TAH).

A section of “affected” group demanded that Lollen’s transfer order should be revoked, while another group alleged that misappropriation in the disbursement of financial compensation for the TAH took place under Lollen’s nose.

Social media has been abuzz with claims and counter-claims of corruption taking place on the orders of Lollen and Saaya separately for weeks now and things came to a head when a letter purportedly written by the former deputy commissioner to the state chief secretary seeking security began circulating on the messaging app, WhatsApp, and on Facebook.

“After the revelation of factual and facts of disbursement of land compensation of two-lane TAH from Potin to Bopi, particularly Yachuli section and Joram to Koloriang (20 km to 50 km), now at present situation my personal life and my family members including then-district land revenue and settlement officer Mr Bharat Lingu and his family life is under continuous threat from the local MLA, Shri Likha Saaya and his kith and kin and relatives,” the letter read.

Just days later, Saaya reacted by filing a complaint with the police against Lollen in reference to allegations reportedly made by the former deputy commissioner.

Another letter once again reportedly written by Lollen began circulating today claiming that Saaya had filed the FIR based on a letter that was “presumed” to have been written by him which was not the case.

The latest letter claimed that he had not written any such letter and that Saaya has “overtly reacted” and that Lollen’s “status as a senior officer has been damaged”.

Lollen himself vouched for the authenticity of the second letter but declined to comment on Saaya’s defamation suit and on the entire episode.

Amidst this intricate web of claims and accusations, Saaya is fending off a slew of allegations including purported threats made by him, forcing Lollen to dole out compensation for his relatives amounting to a total of Rs 64 crore, and that he took Rs three crore from the former deputy commissioner.

But what has the BJP MLA most concerned, is his reputation.

Dressed in a crisp white kurta, blue chinos, and a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes, Saaya listed a long line of various posts he’s held over the years- including his time as president of the state unit of the Congress’ youth wing -to a roomful of journalists at the Arunachal Press Club here.

“The image I have built over the past two decades has been destroyed in a matter of days,” Saaya said.

Refuting all allegations against him, the MLA said that Lollen should clarify how he had threatened him, claiming that the bureaucrat was out to “take revenge” because he had initiated his transfer.

“His transfer was sought because his tenure was over,” Saaya said, adding that except for one cheque issued to his wife, there were no other payments made to any relative of his.

“Of course, if we follow our tribal customary norms then most of the people in my assembly constituency will be related to me,” he added.

Saaya accused Lollen of creating “drama” and trying to “gain public sympathy”.

Known for his flamboyancy, Saaya repeatedly spoke today about restoring his ‘image’ that he has built.

“How do I regain my image,” he asked rhetorically on several occasions.

A Rs 100-crore defamation suit appears to be the place to begin.