Kalikho Pul, 46, a veteran of five consecutive victories in the assembly elections since 1995, is set to be sworn in as chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
It will be a government of dissident Congress MLAs with outside support of the BJP — the country’s first “Congress” government backed by the BJP. Sources in Itanagar said the CM would be sworn in Friday, the rest of the ministry the following week.
Pul would have become chief minister two months ago, when a special session of the assembly that was held first in a community hall and then in a hotel room on December 16 and 17 elected him “leader” of the House. While the Nabam Tuki faction of the CLP stayed away from that session, as many as 33 members — 20 of the Congress, 11 of the BJP and two independents — “elected” him Leader of the House on a voice vote, with none to oppose it.
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Much has happened since concerning Arunachal Pradesh but Pul has remained a constant at the centre of it all, the leader who would be CM. The Supreme Court has finally cleared the way for a new government to be installed in Itanagar in the next two days. The court Thursday also upheld a stay order of the Gauhati High Court of December 2015 against disqualification of 14 dissident Congress MLAs, clearing the decks for for Pul’s swearing in. The Congress, which is still with the Nabam Tuki faction, made its last attempt Wednesday, before the court’s ruling Thursday cleared all hurdles before Pul.
Pul, a father of five sons, belongs to a very small community called Kaman Mishmi, which has hardly 2,500 members. An MLA from Hayuliang in Anjaw district in eastern Arunachal that shares a boundary with China, Pul has been a minister for most of the time since he first arrived in 1995.
He began as deputy minister for finance (1995-97), then became minister of state for power (1997-99), MoS for finance (1999-2002), MoS for land management (2002-03), and finally minister for finance (2003-05) before he was made chairman of a high-powered committee and simultaneously adviser to the CM for about a year. In 2006-09 he once again served as minister for finance, then minister for rural works (2009-11), and then health. Between 2011 and 2014, he was also made adviser to the CM, then again made a minister in 2014.
Lasy year, reports emerged that Pul was engaged in a secret mission to topple Tuki. The then CM not only dropped him, but also saw to it that the Congress expelled him for anti-party activities in April. In less than a year, four more ministers reportedly began secretly meeting him, prompting Tuki to drop them too. That was October 2015, and as many as 21 Congress legislators had sided with Pul, leaving 26 with Tuki.
“I know what finance is, and how funds have been misappropriated by Tuki and his close associates. Look at the condition of roads. Moreover, more than half the 880 hospitals and health centres across the state don’t have doctors and nurses. Give me an opportunity, and I will not only set things right, but also see to it that those responsible for the mess are taken to task,” Pul told The Indian Express.