06/06/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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In Arunachal Pradesh eight MLAs from the BJP cross floor to Congress Party

by Prakash Dubey
The BJP takes a blow. Kameng Dolo, head of a group of Hindu lawmakers he led out of the Hindu nationalist party, tells AsiaNews that the “BJP is only interested in protecting the interests of Hindu merchants. We had no choice but to act in the interests of the people and those who voted for us.”

Siliguri (AsiaNews) – In Arunachal Pradesh the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost eight of its nine Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) who on Monday defected to the Indian National Congress led by Sonia Gandhi, a Catholic. For the BJP this represents a heavy blow in a state like Arunachal Pradesh in northern India that is dominated by Buddhists. Now in Itanagar, the state capital, there is only one MLA for the BJP sitting in the 60-member House of Assembly. The Congress Party instead now has 41.

Kameng Dolo, mastermind of the breakaway group, told AsiaNews “that people chose us to protect their interests and those of the state, but the BJP is more interested in protecting the interests of a small group of Hindu merchants whose only aim is to exploit the resources of the state and earn maximum profits. We had no choice but to act in the interests of the people and those who voted for us.”

Tai Tagak, spokesman and general secretary of the local BJP, immediately accused the eight defectors of letting the Congress Party buy them. But Tani Loffa, one of the former BJP MLAs, retorted that the Congress Party already had a majority in the State Assembly and did not need them to stay in power.

“We chose to joint Congress because we no longer wanted to be part of a party that disregarded the interest of this predominantly Buddhist state,” Loffa said.

The speaker of the state’s Assembly confirmed that that the switch in party allegiance was done in accordance with the Tenth Schedule of the 1987 Arunachal Pradesh’s Legislative Assembly Rules.

“This might be a fatal blow for the BJP,” a volunteer with the local Catholic Church told AsiaNews. “The predominantly Hindu party is not interested in the welfare of the people but wastes time instead trying to raise a bogeyman in this mostly Buddhist state, claiming that there is a threat from allegedly growing Christian influence.”

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