ITANAGAR: Barely had the dust settled from the political storm that had gripped Arunachal Pradesh as 2016 came to a close, another fresh controversy arose from a report that Union Minister of State for Home Affairs and Arunachal West MP, Kiren Rijiju, was set to replace Pema Khandu as Chief Minister.

On December 30 cracks in the then-ruling People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) began to show with some sections of MLAs questioning Khandu’s leadership. The next day Khandu and his supporters formally joined the BJP. While it seemed as though the political landscape in Arunachal may finally become stable after nearly two years of political infighting, a fresh report suggested otherwise.

The Hindustan Times yesterday reported that Rijiju, along with state BJP chief Tapir Gao, are in the running to become the next Chief Minister. While the article did not name any specific source, it said that “rumours surfaced in the corridors of power of Itanagar”.

Reacting to the article, Gao issued an official statement refuting such claims, stating that there is no base for such a claim.

“Pema Khandu enjoys absolute support of 47 BJP and two independent MLAs,” he said and that Khandu has the full endorsement of the party including BJP president Amit Shah and its Northeast in-charge Ram Madhav.

He said that the party’s parliamentary board is backing Khandu's leadership.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Gao said that the BJP is “a disciplined organisation, unlike some other party, where larger interest of nation building is top on agenda”.

Gao said the “speculations so made and printed by some media house are pure rumours that are being spread by political opponents who are playing an outdated political trick to confuse people and to vent out their sheer frustration”.

While Rijiju’s office did not issue an official statement, the minister took to social media to speak on the matter.

“People of Arunachal Pradesh have given me a unique mandate & without the support of Ministers, MLAs, Contractors we defeated the money & muscle power,” a post in his official Facebook profile read.

Showering praise on Khandu, Rijiju said that he (Pema) “is a special man” who was “forced to become MLA after the tragic death of his father”.

He said that “no one can force me to become CM and I'll continue to be MP to be voice of Arunachal".

This is however, not the first time that such “rumours” have done the round.

The political landscape in Arunachal Pradesh is unstable at best and volatile during most times. Party loyalties are as fluid and turbulent as the rivers that flow here. Last year saw three chief ministers within a week’s time which was preceded by a year of instability and internal rebellion that also led to the imposition of President’s Rule for close to a month. It is in this scenario that Rijiju’s name often crops up as possible chief ministerial candidate.

Last year in March, Rijiju said he was offered the top post by former chief minister late Kalikho Pul but that he had declined because he did not want to get involved in state politics.