[ Amar Sangno ]
ITANAGAR, Dec 29: The state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seemingly racing along with the countdown to the new year, as a tight race for the post of the party’s state president is reportedly underway.
Sources in the party informed The Arunachal Times that so far 11 contenders’ names have surfaced: current president and parliamentarian Tapir Gao, the party’s state executive vice-president Tame Phassang, Pakke-Kessang MLA Biyuram Wahge, former party president Tai Tagak, Itanagar MLA contestant Kipa Babu, state BJP vice-president Dominic Tadar, former ministers Tamiyo Taga, Talo Mugli and RK Khrimey, former Daporijo MLA Tapen Siga, and Likabali MLA contestant Tapak Lendo.
Sources close to the contenders disclosed that most of the prospective candidates have reportedly rushed to New Delhi to lobby with the party’s high command.
Former minister and senior BJP member Roding Pertin, who has been given the charge of overseeing the party’s election process as its state returning officer, informed that six candidates – Tame Phassang, Tapen Siga, Talo Mugli, Tai Tagak, Tamiyo Taga and Dominic Tadar – have expressed their willingness to be in the race.
“These six candidates have expressed their willingness. However, I don’t know how many have submitted their biodata so far, as no official instruction has been issued by the party high command for formal notification,” said Pertin.
The party was supposed to wrap up its district presidents’ elections by early December, which it almost did; it has not been able to hold the elections for the party’s capital complex and Kurung Kumey district presidents. The uproar over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act has stalled the election process.
Reportedly, Tapir Gao, Tame Phassang, Biyuram Wahge, Dominic Tadar and Kipa Babu are among the frontrunners.
However, a section of old party workers reportedly lobbied for former power minister Tamiyo Taga, who is a trusted old guard of the BJP, considering his dedication to the saffron party in the state. Taga lost the election this year to JD (U) candidate Talem Taboh in the Rumgong assembly constituency.
“Taga sahab is a party trusted man who never indulges in ‘Aaya Ram, gaya Ram’ politics. He has dedicated his entire career to the party’s cause, but lost the election this year. He should be given a fair chance to lead the party,” said a close confidante of his.
On the other hand, a group of district presidents has reportedly submitted a representation to the election observers, urging the high command to let Gao continue as the party’s state chief.
BJP national secretary Mahesh Giri and former Punjab BJP vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna had visited the state and met the party’s core committee here on 23 December. The core committee is headed by Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Gao, and also comprises former party presidents like Tai Tagak, Tamiyo Taga, Tangor Tapak and Tapen Siga.
When contacted, Gao said, “I am not in the race.”
However, some of the contenders claimed that Gao had used the same tactic prior to his current tenure, and was later elected as party president, succeeding Tai Tagak.
“If he (Gao) is genuinely saying this, he may back Dominic Tadar,” said one of the contenders, on condition of anonymity.
He went on to allege that the current state BJP president is “pressurizing the party high command to implement the criterion of a party functionary to have minimum 10 years’ experience in the party for the candidate to be eligible to contest for the post.”
When this daily asked Gao, he refused to comment.
It is also being said that Gao might be aware of his party’s convention of ‘one man, one post’.
There is a buzz that state BJP vice-president Tame Phassang, who did not contest the last election to the Itanagar assembly constituency, is expected to succeed Gao. Sources in the party said that Phassang did not contest because he was hoping that he would be given the charge of leading the party in the state.
Phassang, who lost in the 2014 election, is also a brother-in-law of union MoS (Independent) for Youth Affairs & Sports, Kiren Rijiju.
Sources added that the party’s high command is under considerable pressure as Itanagar MLA contestant Kipa Babu, who is one of the frontrunners, is in the race. They said that Babu has a stronger support base in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which remains the centrifugal force in the BJP’s decision-making.
However, an RSS higher-up denied that the organisation has any role in such elections.
It is learnt that Biyuram Wahge, Tai Tagak and Dominic Tadar could well turn out to be the dark horses in the race. Wahge is considered to be one of the most dedicated party workers, and has served the BJP in distinct positions. Tagak, too, has been a true ideologue of the BJP. Besides, former minister Talo Mugli, who is a senior party member, has been lobbying for the party chief’s post since the last tenure.
The CM is keeping mum in the matter and reportedly not siding with anyone as of now. The election process for the party’s state chief is likely to conclude by the second week of January 2020. Until then, the suspense will continue.
[ Amar Sangno ]