Old foes hugged and made up as Pema Khandu took oath as the ninth chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday, a day after his election as Congress Legislature Party chief helped diffuse a political crisis in the state and avoid a floor test.
Khandu took over from Nabam Tuki, whose offer to resign as chief minister made rebel Congress MLAs ditch the BJP-backed People’s Party of Arunachal and return to the Congress overnight.
Apart from Khandu, governor Tathagata Roy swore in Chowna Mein as deputy chief minister. Mein was the deputy chief minister in the rebel Congress government that Kalikho Pul headed.
Khandu was in Pul’s camp too but was kept out of the ministry.
Before the ceremony, old foes Tuki and Pul hugged and exchanged pleasantries as if nothing had happened between the two.
“Theek se khichiye, hum log dost the, dost rahenge (click properly, we were and will be friends),” a beaming Tuki said nudging Pul seated beside.
Itanagar: Pema Khunda sworn-in as Arunachal Pradesh CM. Chowna Mein sworn-in as the Deputy CM of Arunachal Pradesh pic.twitter.com/fcbVxK7kb2— ANI (@ANI_news) July 17, 2016
Congress leaders said it was almost as if the Supreme Court’s July 13 verdict that restored the assembly to last December had effectively erased six months of the state’s political history.
Khandu later told HT, “I have been given a huge responsibility to take the state ahead on the road to progress. I have the blessings of my senior colleagues and our party high command.”
The chief minister said it was now time to put the past behind and work together as a team.
“I will ensure that all communities are served equitably and are given proper representation in the government,” he said.
At 37, Khandu is the third youngest chief minister of Aruanchal Pradesh. The state’s first chief minister Prem Khandu Thungon was 29 while Gegong Apang, the third and longest-serving, was 31 at the time of anointment.
Pema Khandu is the eldest son of former CM Dorjee Khandu, who died in a helicopter crash in April 2011 after ruling the frontier state for five years.
The Congress chose him as the candidate for the Mukto assembly seat that his father represented, and he won the byelection unopposed that year. He won the seat for the second time in 2014 to become the tourism minister in Tuki’s ministry.
But Khandu aligned with Pul who rebelled against Tuki and sought a change of leadership last year. He had quit from Tuki’s ministry in October last year.
Though Khandu is the ninth chief minister, there is some confusion over his numerical position in the list of chief ministers. This is because of the July 13 SC judgment that effectively de-recognised Kalikho Pul’s 146-day reign from February 19 to July 13.