ITANAGAR: Politics in Arunachal Pradesh throws up so many surprises that it has now become the norm. Friday was one such day.

After the Congress pulled off a miracle in July by successfully bringing 30 dissident MLAs into its fold, it has again lost ground in the state with 43 of its 44 MLAs jumping ship to the regional People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA).

Pema Khandu had become chief minister on July 16, replacing Nabam Tuki who had replaced late Kalikho Pul after a Supreme Court verdict reinstated the Congress government in the state. Pul and his 29 MLAs had in fact, joined the PPA during his tenure that lasted from March 3 to July 13. The PPA was also a part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance.

Khandu had Friday told reporters here that the decision to join the PPA was ignited by the fact that the state is “fund crunched”.

An official press statement said that the state has inherited a cumulative deficit of Rs 3,700 crore.

“I have already released Rs 1,200 crore and we have more deficit to pay,” Khandu said. While he said that, neither he nor the government spokesperson Pasang D Sona stated in clear terms that the central government has been un-cooperative.

Sona however, did say that the Centre and state governments “need to be in tandem”. He also added that the move was fuelled by regional aspirations.

“We felt that a regional identity is needed right now to fulfil the aspirations of the people,” Sona said

State deputy chief minister Chowna Mein also said that the move was initiated to “build better relations with the Centre”. While all of them said that the state is fund crunched and that better relations with the Centre are needed, none of them explicitly said that the BJP government has not been releasing funds.

State BJP chief Tapir Gao also tried to cash in on the move and extended his congratulations to Khandu “for joining Congress-mukt Arunachal”. Sona and Khandu however, dismissed any possibility of them joining the BJP.

While Khandu said that the BJP will not be forming a government here in the state, Sona said that they are “not concerned with any Congress-mukt ideology”.

Sona also said that “discussions have been on for quite some time” and that the decision to join the PPA was not taken overnight although the announcement did come as a surprise.

This is the third time that the PPA has come to power. The first time the party was in power was in 1979 and the only time the lone regional party from the state had been voted to power.

The 60-member state Assembly has an effective strength of 57 MLAs. The status of two MLAs, Wanglam Sawin and Gabriel D Wangsu, is currently pending with the speaker following contentions that they were wrongly disqualified. Another seat fell vacant when Pul died on August 9. After Friday’s development, there are currently 43 PPA MLAs, 11 BJP MLAs, two independents and one from the Congress, former chief minister Nabam Tuki who was out of town.