HT interview: Latest win shows there was pro-incumbency for BJP, says Pema Khandu | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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HT interview: Latest win shows there was pro-incumbency for BJP, says Pema Khandu

Jun 04, 2024 01:30 AM IST

Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu credits PM Modi for BJP's historic win in the state, highlighting massive development under Modi's leadership.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu led the Bharatiya Janata Party to its second successive victory in the assembly elections by winning 46 out of 60 seats. A day after the BJP stormed back to the power in the largest state in the northeast bordering China, Khandu spoke to HT about the developmental work that has taken place, Congress becoming “completely irrelevant” in the state, his priority in developing the border villages and future plans of his government. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu.

Winning 46 out of 60 assembly seats is a remarkable achievement. Who do you credit this win to?

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First and foremost, the credit for this historic win goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Earlier, development was not a focus in Arunachal Pradesh. In the last 10 years, under Modi’s leadership, the state has seen massive development work with the support of the Centre. People have seen this and have reposed their faith in the BJP.

During the 2019 assembly elections, we won 41 seats. The latest win shows there was pro-incumbency for the party. It is a sign that people are welcoming the decisions taken by the BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh. The party workers worked hard. They have been able to connect with the beneficiaries regarding flagship programmes of Modi, making sure that benefits of all the schemes were delivered.

Modi has made several visits to the northeast in the past 10 years. Has it helped the BJP in the state?

Yes, tremendously. We have only two Lok Sabha seats, but the Prime Minister visited Arunachal Pradesh seven or eight times. All Union ministers have also visited the northeastern states since 2014, which was never seen earlier. There have been more than 600 visits from Union ministers in the last 10 years. This reflects that the BJP government at the Centre understands the problems of the people of the northeast. Arunachal Pradesh has really benefitted from Modi’s Act East policy.

When you started campaigning, what were the issues in your mind? Are China’s activities a concern for the people of Arunachal Pradesh?

A lot of people who talk about land grab by China in Arunachal Pradesh do not understand the subject and try to build a negative narrative around it. People of Arunachal Pradesh know what happens on the ground. China hasn’t and won’t be able to take even an inch of land from us. Under the BJP rule, we have carried out so much development work in the border areas. For instance, we now have roads to the border, infrastructure for the army and paramilitary forces. Subsequently, over 450 border villages are being developed under the Vibrant Village Programme of the Centre.

In fact, we have politically gained from the China-Tibet narrative because practically, things have been delivered on the ground. People have noticed this and that’s why they have voted for the BJP. As you can see, Congress has got only one seat this time. They have become completely irrelevant. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has won 59 out of 60 seats.

Since you spoke about the Congress getting only one seat, why do you think that has happened? After all, you were once part of it.

The Congress has been rejected by the people of Arunachal Pradesh. For a very long time, Congress ruled the entire northeast, including Arunachal Pradesh, but didn’t work for its welfare. Those who sat in Delhi treated Arunachal Pradesh as a money minting state. So, when I entered politics in 2011, I was shocked to see this system where money had to be paid in Delhi for getting any projects approved. Congress has no ideology; it only believes in power at any cost and then grabs the money.

Whereas, when I joined the BJP, I saw that the party has a nation first agenda. The BJP doesn’t work for itself. It understands the issues people are facing and then works towards resolving them.

What developmental work have been carried out under the BJP rule in Arunachal Pradesh?

Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in the northeast and has a challenging topography. The biggest problem was connectivity. We didn’t have roads, mobile connectivity or an airport. All these facilities have been built now. A lot of road projects have been completed in last 8-9 years, including the 1,700 km Trans-Arunachal highway. We will soon have a frontier highway (2,500 km). To connect villages, we have started the chief ministers’ comprehensive road network programme with the help of the Centre. We also have had an operational airport now for the past two years. Besides, eight advanced landing grounds were built for the army and civilian use.

What is being done to earn more revenue and create jobs in the state?

Since we don’t get external funding from the World Bank, we need investments to increase job opportunities. There is much potential in Arunachal Pradesh in tourism, agriculture and allied sectors. We also have a huge capacity for hydroelectric power projects. Work has already started on several projects. We have signed an agreement with central public sector units for power projects with capacity of 12,700 MW, which will boost the state’s revenue. For tourism, we are in talks with the hotel industry to create facilities.

Have discussions taken place to decide the new cabinet after winning the election on Sunday?

The BJP is a different, disciplined party. There is a structure in it. The decision to decide the next chief minister is taken by the party leadership after proper discussions. It may happen after the Lok Sabha election results are out.

As chief minister, did you face any administrative issues in your day-to-day work in the last two tenures that need resolving?

An issue that I have also conveyed to the Prime Minister is having our own cadre of all- India officers. Arunachal Pradesh relies on IAS and IPS officers of the Union territory cadre, who usually come for two years. For many development projects or decisions to be finished, there must be longer tenure for the bureaucrats. We surely will have a solution to this problem soon.

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