He could have made history as India’s longest serving chief minister, but fell short with a score of 23 years against West Bengal’s Jyoti Basu’s 24.
But Gegong Apang set a record of sorts — making Arunachal Pradesh the first Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.
In 1996, the Congress party he had been leading turned regional — the Arunachal Congress — lock, stock and barrel.
And when he decided in 2003, the Congress and the Arunachal Congress turned saffron.
Apang, 60, defends: “A remote state like Arunachal Pradesh, always dependent on the Centre, is better off aligning with whichever party or coalition rules New Delhi.”
But today, he has more enemies than friends, most of them allegedly in the Congress he rejoined before the 2004 Assembly elections.
“Everyone knows him inside out,” says Alo Libang, a popular radio artiste who is contesting the Yingkiong-Tuting assembly constituency on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket.
Libang’s rivals are the BJP’s Katan Komboh and Apang himself, who’s never lost the seat since 1980. There are a little over 10,000 voters in this constituency.
But those who know Apang are wary of writing him off. One of the 40-odd millionaires contesting the 2009 assembly elections, Apang’s assets have risen from Rs 32 lakh (Rs 3.2 million) in 2004 to Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million).
A party leader based in state capital Itanagar said, “One needs money to win elections in Arunachal Pradesh, whatever his or her status.”