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No end to Arunachal crisis: AICC observers exit within four hours

October 24, 2011 - Itanagar

They came like a cyclonic storm and passed over the politically disturbed Arunachal Pradesh sky within four hours, leaving clouds of suspense still floating and a big question mark - what next?

The AICC team led by Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde with former union minister BK Handique and the state's in-charge, Dhaniram Shandil, landed in a chopper at 11 am at the Raj Bhawan helipad here on Sunday and reached the banquet hall to gauge the mood of 42 Congress legislators on the issue of a change of leadership and left around 3.30 pm without making their findings public. They were to board a Delhi flight at 5.20 p.m. from Guwahati.

Shinde is known as a shrewd politician in Congress circles, who has been entrusted with various responsibilities of the party since 1974. He has been an AICC general secretary for six years, including in-charge of Arunachal in the late 90's during the installation of Gegong Apang as chief minister. Therefore, dealing with such a situation may not be difficult for him and that was perhaps why he was chosen to head the team.

Talking to waiting media persons, Shinde admitted that differences crop up in the Congress, but that the leaders defeat their enemies when they stand united.

Clearly indicating that he was not the authority to give any decision, Shinde said he would be giving his report to the party high command and did not indicate when the decision would be made known.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have been giving special attention to this state and huge funds have been flowing in under various projects. Therefore, the legislators have decided to remain united for the welfare of the party and the people, he said, before the 42 party MLAs posed for photograph. The photograph with all smiling faces spoke less than what met the eyes.

When asked as to why the AICC had forgotten Arunachal Pradesh for over four months, Shinde seemingly fell short of words and said, "AICC sabka dukh...dard door karta hai (AICC removes everyone's miseries and problem)."

Dr Shandil, comparatively a new face in the AICC, and Handique from neighbouring Assam and an old guard, allowed Shinde to address the media.

Interestingly, the banquet hall was converted into a fort with paramilitary forces guarding the entrance and allowing entry to only a few senior police officers. Even the vehicles of the legislators, except that of the observers, were parked outside. There were security barricades all along the road leading to the hall, prohibiting unwanted movement on the road, and shopkeepers in Niti Vihar area kept their shutters down. Even media persons needed permission from the Superintendent of Police in charge of the area to move ahead beyond a point.

Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin, Finance Minister Kalikho Pul and Forest Minister Setong Sena had to air-dash to Itanagar after attending the National Development Council meeting in New Delhi on Saturday to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting. They refused to comment on the deliberations.

Chief Minister Gamlin preferred to not comment on Shinde's language of peace and unity, saying that the party observers had assessed the situation and there was no need for him to say anything.

Later, APCC president Nabam Tuki, who has been leading the dissenters and returned here on October 21 after camping in New Delhi for over four months, said that 42 of the party's 60 MLAs, including the speaker were interviewed individually by the central observers to elicit their opinion on the leadership issue. The outcome is expected any time, he said, and "expressed confidence of a favourbale decision."

As per Congress convention, the high command is the final authority to give the verdict, Tuki said.

He said that a "majority of the legislators had revolted against misrule of the present incumbent which had resulted in disharmony in the society and law and order problems".

After they apprised the high command of the situation, the observers were deputed by Gandhi to assess the situation and end the crisis to bring stability, Tuki added.

Gandhi had told Gamlin and Tuki to return to the state after the duo called on her at New Delhi and given a joint letter on October 15 that they would abide by her decision on the leadership issue.

It seems the scene of the political drama has been re-shifted from Itanagar to New Delhi again and the final words would come from the horse's mouth.

Tuki, however, denied any proposal to visit Delhi, saying he would wait for the result.

The speculations would ripen and rumours start doing rounds again till the verdict comes, naming the leader to hold the reins of the state. y Pradeep Kumar


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