High-voltage political drama involving Governor JyotiPrashad Rajkhowa capped an eventful year in Arunachal Pradesh.
Resurfacing of contentious Chakma-Hajong refugee issues, controversy on construction of green field airport project, a chopper crash, alleged financial mismanagement and protest against China’s move to depict Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, were some of the other issues that hogged limelight during 2015.
The Congress government in the frontier state faced the heat of rebellion from 21 party MLAs out of total 47 during the year. 21 MLAs including six ministers joined hands with former Finance Minister Kalikho Pul to try and topple Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.
Controversy erupted in the state when Rajkhowa on December 9 advanced the winter session of the assembly to December 16 from January 14, 2016 which evoked strong protest from the Tuki camp and also several mass-based organisations.
The governor called the session with directives to Deputy Speaker T Norbu Thongdok to preside over it and take up the impeachment motion notice served by 11 BJP and two Independent MLAs against Speaker Nabam Rebia.
Tuki supported by his nine cabinet ministers along with 16 Congress members including Rebia decided not to attend the three-day session terming it as “arbitrary and against the Constitution”.
Surprisingly, the Speaker on December 15 in an order disqualified 14 rebel MLAs including Thongdok from the House on the clause of anti-defection.
However, during the first day of the session, the rebel group of Congress MLAs accompanied by BJP and Independent members went to the Assembly but they were prohibited entry as the district administration on directive of the Speaker sealed the assembly premises for three days apprehending serious law and order problem.
With no option left, the rebel group convened the session in two makeshift venues and impeached Rebia and elected dissident leader Pul as the new leader of the house through a composite floor test brought by BJP and Independent members.
The rebel group was prohibited to go to the Raj Bhawan by Youth Congress cadres who resorted to road blockade for nearly five hours.
Providing a breather to Tuki, the Gauhati High Court on December 17 stayed all the proceedings of the assembly and governor’s order till February 1 next year.
Tuki on October 7 recommended to the Governor dropping four senior ministers from the state cabinet. A few days later another minister was also axed from the cabinet.
However, expressing displeasure over the working style of
Tuki, Tourism Minister Pema Khandu, son of former chief minister late Dorjee Khandu, tendered his resignation from the council of minister on October 28 accusing Tuki of having “miserably failed” in governance.
The rebellion started immediately after Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Padi Richo expelled Pul from the party on April 2 for a period of six years for alleged anti-party activities. However, the expulsion order was later stayed after Pul won the legal battle.
Adding fuel to the coup, Speaker Rebia, a close relative of Tuki, on September 30 accepted the resignation of two Congress MLAs – Gabriel D Wangsu and Wanglam Sawin – who, later alleged that they were forced to resign by Tuki. The duo, however, approached the high court seeking justice.
The court stayed the notification of the assembly issued on October 1 accepting their resignation, in its order on October 7.
In the later part of the year, resignation of government- appointed parliamentary secretaries and chairmen started opposing leadership of Tuki.
The decades-old Chakma-Hajong refugee imbroglio resurfaced after the Supreme Court in its September 17 order directed the Centre and the Arunachal Pradesh government to provide permanent settlement of the refugees in the state.
The apex court’s order sparked widespread protests led by All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU). The state government as well as the AAPSU filed two review petitions in the Supreme Court which were dismissed by the court.
The government and the AAPSU also decided to file curative petitions in the apex court.
There were also allegations of financial mismanagement to the tune of Rs 581 crore during the year with Opposition BJP organising a public rally here demanding resignation of Tuki for overdrawing the amount forcing the state to plunge into acute financial crisis. The BJP demanded immediate imposition of financial emergency in the state.
Pul also alleged financial embezzlement by the state government to the tune of Rs 299.32 crore of central fund against relief and rehabilitation schemes in the past four years.
A PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court (Itanagar Permanent Bench) against the state government by social activists alleging gross misuse of central fund.
Tragedy struck the state when a helicopter of state-run Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited, with crew members Captain M S Brar and Captain Rajiv Hoskote and Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Kumar Joshi on board crashed at a site 36 km from the district headquarters immediately after taking off from Khonsa on August 4.
The debris of the chopper along the three bodies was recovered after seven days of the crash.
China’s oft-repeated claim over Arunachal’s territory
again cropped up during the year with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman statement claiming the state as a part of its territory while there was also a wrong depiction of Arunachal in its map.
The AAPSU strongly protested the statement while the ruling Congress reiterated that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, and the act of China even while the Indian Prime Minister was in that country is an insult not only to Narendra Modi but to the whole nation and in particular to Arunachal Pradesh.
The extension of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to nine districts of the state during the year by the union Home Ministry also sparked protests in the state which compelled the ministry to withdraw it.
The governor, who was sworn-in on June 1, faced public criticism after his controversial letter to prime minister requesting him to scrap the Greenfield Airport project at Hollongi, near here and instead upgrade Lilabari airport in Assam’s North Lakhimpur district. Several organisations including Chief Minister Tuki castigated him for his letter and demanded his call back from the state.
The law and order front was also not conducive in the state during the year. Three Army personnel died while four other seriously injured when suspected NSCN militants fired at the convoy at Tupi village along Khonsa-Longding road in Tirap district on April 2.
Suspected NSCN(K) militants opened fire in an Assam Rifles (AR) camp at remote Lazu in Tirap district on June 7.
A minor was allegedly raped for two consecutive days by a government employee at Seppa, in East Kameng district on October 7.
Landslides and flood wrecked havoc in the state during the year with over 300 housed damaged and properties worth several crore were destroyed.
The state also witnessed several developmental activities as well during the year. The Arunachal Pradesh Bamboo Resources Development Agency on October 9 signed an agreement with Numaligarh Refinery Limited for supplying bamboo.
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on April 30 announced various road projects for Arunachal Pradesh and laid the foundation stones of five important roads with total length of 542.27 km involving an estimated cost of Rs 3,286.28 crore to boost up accelerated development in the land-locked state.
The Arunachal Pradesh cabinet on July 3 approved an ambitious project – Infrastructure development of twin capital cities Itanagar and Naharlagun – that would adorn them with fly-overs, metro cable cars, automated car parking slots, multi-utility city centers and other facilities synonymous with a model metro-city.