Pema Khandu: Music and sports lover who brought BJP to power in bordering Arunachal

05:39 PM Jun 02, 2024 | PTI |

Itanagar: Pema Khandu, a sports enthusiast and music aficionado, has emerged as a tall leader in Arunachal Pradesh over the years, especially after a constitutional crisis in 2016 that led to the imposition of president’s rule.


Khandu was also regarded as a strategist who, through political manoeuvring, brought the BJP to power for the first time in the northeastern state bordering China.

The BJP on Sunday returned to power in Arunachal Pradesh for the third time in a row, as the party won 46 seats in the 60-member assembly.

Khandu’s political odyssey began amid a personal tragedy. The untimely demise of his father, former chief minister Dorjee Khandu, in a helicopter crash in 2011, thrust him under the spotlight.

Although he had joined the Congress in 2000 and held various positions, it was not until he won a by-election uncontested from his father’s constituency Mukto, that he truly began to carve out his political path.


Khandu’s rise was swift. Serving initially as the tourism minister in Nabam Tuki’s Congress government, his leadership trajectory soared following a constitutional crisis in January 2016 that led to the imposition of president’s rule.

When the central rule was lifted, he became a minister in the Kalikho Pul-led government, supported by the BJP. However, this government was short-lived. The Supreme Court’s intervention restored Tuki, who soon resigned, and at just 37, Khandu became the chief minister in July 2016.

Since then, Khandu and his government have twice changed their party affiliation in quick succession – from the Congress to the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) in September 2016 and then to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in December of the same year.

Just three months into his term, 43 ruling Congress MLAs defected to the PPA, an ally of the BJP.

Although internal discord led to his suspension from the PPA, Khandu demonstrated resilience and adaptability by joining the BJP along with most PPA MLAs, securing his position and proving his majority on the floor of the house.

In 2019, Khandu won from Mukto assembly seat for the second time and became the chief minister without any political hindrance.

Beyond politics, Khandu is known for his cultural contributions. An ardent music lover, he captivates audiences with renditions of Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi classics at official gatherings.

His commitment to preserving cultural heritage is evident in his efforts to promote traditional songs through talent shows in Tawang and West Kameng districts.

Sports, another of Khandu’s passions, sees him actively organizing cricket tournaments and supporting local athletes, nurturing talent across various disciplines including football, cricket, badminton, and volleyball.

A history graduate from Delhi’s Hindu College, Khandu is a member of the Monpa tribe, which predominantly inhabits Tawang and parts of West Kameng.

In the run-up to the assembly polls held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections on April 19, he campaigned on a plank of corruption-free governance, emphasizing transparency and people-centric policies.

A Buddhist by faith, 45-year-old Khandu has been re-elected unopposed from the Mukto seat in the border district of Tawang this time as well.


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