He replaced Nabam Tuki, who resigned after stepping down as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) on Saturday, hours before he was to seek a trust vote. The strategic move, as per sources, was steered by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Khandu was part of a group of 30 party lawmakers to rebel against Tuki’s leadership. Chowna Mein took oath as Deputy Chief Minister, said, “Pema Kahndu may be only 37 years old, but he is very mature. We will give a very stable government.”
Khandu met the Governor with a letter of support from the rebel lawmakers, all of whom turned up today at a meeting of Congress MLAs in state capital Itanagar. That includes dissident leader Kalikho Pul, who had taken over as Chief Minister in February with the support of the rebels and the BJP.
With all its 45 lawmakers back in the fold, the Congress will have a big majority again in the 60-member Arunachal Pradesh Assembly. When on Friday as Nabam Tuki scrambled to put together numbers for his trust vote on Saturday, the rebels sent word that they were ready to return to the Congress if a change in leadership was effected.
Sources say that these developments check-mated the BJP, which tried till the last minute to convince the Congress rebels not to go back. The Supreme Court on Wednesday had reinstated Nabam Tuki as Chief Minister and ruled that the decision to place Arunachal Pradesh under President’s Rule early this year was illegal.
It also ordered the removal of Pul, who had led the rebellion that saw the Tuki government fall in December last year. For outgoing Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who sacrificed his office in the “larger interest of the state and the Congress party”, it was a literal pulling out of Kalikho Pul and his 29 followers from the grip of the BJP that led to the restoration of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh. Had he not managed to do that, the Congress government would have fallen despite the historic Supreme Court judgment of Wednesday.
Son of former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a chopper crash in 2011 near Luguthang in Tawang district bordering China, Pema Khandu, is a product of Hindu College, University of Delhi, and had an early entry into governance after his father’s demise.
In a span of five years, he emerged as the Chief Ministerial prospect after Supreme Court’s intervention that changed the course of politics in the State with dissidents returning to the Congress. In order to fill the vacancy caused by his father’s death.
His election as MLA from Mukto (ST) constituency was uncontested and he was soon included in the State government as Cabinet Minister for Water Resource Development and Tourism in the Jarbom Gamlin Ministry.
He also became the Cabinet Minister for Rural Works Department and Tourism since November 21, 2011 in Nabam Tuki government and thereafter served the State as Cabinet Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation and Art & Culture. Khandu was re-inducted as the Urban Development Minister on June 1, 2014 in the Nabam Tuki government after the general election.
To his credit, Pema Khandu championed civil-Army relations, plantation drive in hilly Tawang district, organised periodical medical camps in various parts of the district. Besides promoting games and sports in the district, Khandu also patronised talent search among local youth to preserve traditional songs by conducting talent show in Tawang and West Kameng districts.
He is keen on developing a peaceful and socio-economically vibrant State with cordial relations among various tribes there.