Itanagar/New Delhi: The face-off between Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa and Chief Minister Nabam Tuki over attempts to remove the Speaker escalated on Tuesday with the latter terming the move to advance the assembly session for the purpose as "illegal" and declaring no Congress MLA will attend the proceedings.
The matter also resonated in the Rajya Sabha with Congress disrupting the proceedings, raising questions over Rajkhowa's decision and seeking his dismissal, inviting sharp reactions from the treasury benches.
"The move is intentional and politically motivated to dislodge the democratically elected Congress government in the state by the Constitutional head of the state whose prime duty is to look after the welfare of the state and its people," Tuki said in a hurriedly called press conference in Itanagar this evening.
Tuki said till now the members have not received any official communication from assembly secretariat regarding advancement of session.
"Since no official formalities were observed to notify the session and no member were informed officially till date, the commencement of the session is illegal and we have decided not to attend it," he said.
Governor Rajkhowa had a few days ago issued orders for convening the three-day Winter Session from December 16 to 18, modifying the earlier order of summoning the House from January 14 to 18.
Tuki with his ministerial colleagues met Rajkhowa this evening and requested him to reconsider his decision to avoid "serious law and order situation".
"Despite our request, the Governor was reluctant to cancel his order saying since he has already issued the order it is the duty of the assembly to implement it," Tuki said quoting Rajknowa.
Raising the issue soon after the Rajya Sabha assembled for the day, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged the Governor was "interfering" with the activities of the state government and the Legislature over summoning of Winter Session of the assembly and "deciding" its agenda "without the state government requesting for it".
Alleging that the most "undemocratic thing" has happened in this case something that did not occur "even during the British period", Azad said, "Governor summoned assembly session without consulting the state government or the Chief Minister.
"Governor himself fixed the agenda and decided that the assembly Speaker will not preside over the proceedings. This is not within the jurisdiction of the Governor."
Narrating the sequence of events, Azad said on November 6, some Congress MLAs gave a notice to remove Deputy Speaker of Assembly Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, who belongs to Congress party. Three days later, BJP MLAs sent a notice seeking the removal of Speaker Nabam Rebia, he said.
The order to advance the assembly session stipulates that the resolution seeking the Speaker's removal would be the first item of business in the session.
The Governor and Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh have been locked in a tussle for quite some time. Tuki has often accused Rajkhowa of misusing the Raj Bhavan as an office of the BJP to dislodge the Congress government.
Tuki is the second northeast CM after Assam's Tarun Gogoi to lock in a feud with the Governor. Gogoi had made similar accusations against Nagaland Governor PB Acharya, who holds additional charge of Assam.
While Acharya has RSS background, IAS officer Rajkhowa had been Assam's chief secretary and is believed to be close to BJP.
Tuki's allegations come against the backdrop of growing dissidence in the ruling party with several Congress legislators publicly acknowledging their desire to align with the BJP, which has 11 MLAs in the 60-member assembly.
Meanwhile, the Centre has defended the Governor's decision to advance the session to take up a resolution on removal of the Speaker, saying there are conditions under which such decisions can be taken without the concurrence of the state government.
"One of the conditions is that there is a no-confidence motion against a Speaker, while the other is when the state government does not have the majority," a Union minister said on the condition of anonymity.
"Here the majority of MLAs met the Governor and said they have lost confidence in the Speaker," the minister said.
The Congress, however, attacked the Narendra Modi government on the issue, charging it with using the Governor to remove Chief Minister Tuki by seeking to turn the party's 80 per cent majority into minority.
Demanding immediate removal of Rajkhowa, party General Secretary V Narainsamy and spokesman Abhishek Singhvi accused him of acting as Chief Minister, Speaker and state BJP chief "rolled into one" in an attempt to destabilise the democratically-elected government.
They told reporters that approaching the President and taking legal recourse are some of the options before the party.
"What is happening in Arunachal is height of dictatorship. The Governor is acting like a puppet-Chief Minister, Speaker and state BJP President all rolled into one.
He should be removed instantly, without delay", Singhvi said. Besides, he said, the situation in the state was "unprecedented" because it was witnessing "de-facto President's rule" without imposition of central rule.
"BJP is set to create destabilisation and uncertainity in the sensitive border state. What we are seeing is a new dictionary, new definition of cooperative federalism authored
by the Prime Minister", he alleged.