Pema Khandu, who was elected leader of the Congress in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly yesterday, took oath as the Chief Minister of the state today.
The 36-year-old is the youngest chief minister of the country. He has replaced Nabam Tuki, who resigned after stepping down as leader of the Congress Legislature Party or CLP yesterday, hours before he was to seek a trust vote. The strategic move sources said was steered by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Mr. Khandu was part of a group of 30 party lawmakers who had rebelled against Mr. Tuki’s leadership.
Chowna Mein, who 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.”
Mr. Khandu met the Governor armed 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.
In a dramatic turnaround 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 affected.
While no Delhi leader is in Itanagar, sources said the return of the rebels was worked out by Rahul Gandhi’s office, with the Congress vice-president closely involved in the negotiations.
Months ago, the Congress’ crisis in Arunachal was attributed to inept handling of the rebellion by Rahul Gandhi. The dissidents had complained that Mr. Gandhi had failed to meet them when they were demanding that Mr. Tuki is replaced.
Yesterday’s developments check-mated the BJP, which tried till the last minute to convince the Congress rebels not to go back, sources said.
Nabam Tuki was reinstated as chief minister on Wednesday by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the decision to place Arunachal Pradesh under President’s Rule early this year was illegal.
It also ordered the removal of Mr. Pul, who had led the rebellion that saw the Tuki government fall in December last year.