Kalikho Pul, sworn-in as the eighth chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh late on Friday evening, will be the first Congress CM, probably in India, to be installed with support from arch rivals BJP.
This is not the first time that the ‘impossible’ has happened in the northeast. Last year, Congress and BJP came together to help a regional party – Naga People’s Front – stave off a political crisis in Nagaland. And in 2003, most Congress MLAs aligned with Gegong Apang to form a BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh overnight.
Dependent on the centre for funds, instability is not new to Arunachal Pradesh. Pul’s coronation is the outcome of such a situation leading to imposition of President’s Rule on January 26 and dismissal of Nabam Tuki’s Congress government.
But for a change, the new government will continue to be that of the Congress because Pul, 47, says he is a “Congressman at heart” who has taken BJP’s support only to end a “reign of corruption”.
Belonging to the Kaman Mishmi tribe whose population is barely 2,500, the five-time MLA Pul hails from Walla village in eastern Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district – among the most backward – that bore the brunt of the 1962 Chinese aggression along with Tawang miles away to the northwest. He has been a minister since winning his maiden assembly election from the Hayulliang seat in 1995.
His portfolios included finance, power and health. He had a way of getting close to the chief minister of the day – from Gegong Apang to Dorjee Khandu and Tuki, the man he revolted against.
A bachelor of arts, Pul was into social activism and was associated with several educational institutes in Anjaw district before contesting polls. He had joined the Congress as a teenager in the 1980s.
The father of five sons, Pul ekes out time to pursue badminton and chess – a passion that has apparently helped him control the endgame.