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Pema Khandu wins another massive victory in Arunachal Pradesh: Here is how he has been working every day, walking every mile for it

The Bhartiya Janata Party has begun its victory march from the land of the rising sun—Arunachal Pradesh. Under the leadership of Chief Minister Pema Khandu, the BJP won a landslide victory in the state. The party won 46 of the 60 seats in the state legislative assembly. Congress party which dominated Arunachal Pradesh’s politics until ten years ago has been nearly wiped out winning just 1 Bameng seat in East Kameng district.

Source: ECI website

“In Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress had been running the government for a very long time. It set up a corrupt system. The then central leaders of the Congress never sanctioned any work without kickbacks. But the BJP gave an alternative way of governance…” Khandu said on the 2nd of June.

Interestingly, in March this year, the BJP won 10 uncontested seats in Arunachal Pradesh’s 60-member assembly since none of the opposition parties nominated candidates in five constituencies, while BJP opponents withdrew their nominations in another five. The uncontested winners included Chief Minister Pema Khandu from Mukto and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein from Chowkham.

Pema Khandu: The man behind BJP’s rise to power in Arunachal Pradesh

Known for his passion for sports and music, Pema Khandu has become massively popular in Arunachal Pradesh, especially after a constitutional crisis in 2016 that resulted in the declaration of president’s rule. The 2016 constitutional crisis eventually culminated in Khandu’s appointment as the state’s chief minister at the age of 37.

Belonging to the Monpa tribe, Khandu is accredited to be the driving force behind the BJP’s ascension to power in the state when it won 46 of 60 assembly seats for the third time in a row with a massive 54.57% vote share.

Source: ECI website

Khandu’s political career began with a personal tragedy: his father, former chief minister Dorjee Khandu, died in a helicopter crash in 2011. His political career took off after he won an unopposed by-election in his father’s Mukto constituency.

Regardless of political fluctuations, defecting from the Congress to the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) and then to the BJP, Khandu has held his political grip demonstrating perseverance in the face of internal conflict.

Pema Khandu connecting with people and winning hearts by organising cultural and sports events

Since taking office as Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu has promoted and organised a myriad of cultural events and sports tournaments to promote the state’s rich heritage and boost the confidence of young athletes in the state. Khandu’s initiatives to unleash the state’s tourism potential include infrastructure development, promoting cultural heritage, and marketing Arunachal Pradesh as a premier tourist destination.

From the famous Tawang Festival showcasing the region’s unique traditions, music, dance, and crafts, the Siang River Festival, the Ziro Music Festival held annually in the picturesque Ziro Valley, the Nyishi tribe’s Nyokum Yullo Festival, Losar Festival, to Pangsau Pass Winter Festival among others, CM Khandu has actively supported efforts to showcase Arunachal Pradesh’s cultural diversity before the entire country and the world. Khandu’s efforts have yielded positive results for the state’s tourism industry and also increased job opportunities.

CM Pema Khandu at Mopin celebration in Hime village of Lower Siang district in 2022 (Source: Khandu’s Facebook page)

As the Covid pandemic caused severe damage to the state’s tourism sector, CM Khandu launched the “Dekho Apna Pradesh” scheme on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Dekho Apna Desh” scheme to revive tourism in the state. Based on the theme of “Restarting Tourism for All”, the Tourism Department has conducted four of its familiarisation (FAM) tours covering Kra-Dadi-Kurung Kumey- Kamle, Namsai-Kibitho-Kahoo, Tirap-Longding and Taksing to Tawang (theme Border to Border) under ‘Dekho Apna Pradesh’ initiative.

Simplifying the process for obtaining Inner Line Permits (ILP) has been a significant step in boosting tourism, making it easier for domestic tourists to visit the state. In November 2022, the CM Khandu-led BJP government launched an e-ILP portal for tourists. With the launch of electronically generated ILP, obtaining a permit has become faster and more convenient than ever.

Pema Khandu as CM has played a pivotal role in fostering a positive environment for promoting sports and athletics in the state. In addition to various state-level tournaments, CM Khandu has launched the first-of-its-kind Tawang Marathon, the North East India 24-Hours Mountain Biking Championship, and organised the Hangpan Dada Trophy etc.

‘Trekking’ is Khandu’s key to connect with the people in remote areas

Interestingly, beyond the political rhetoric of reaching the last man standing, CM Khandu has in practice demonstrated that if there is true intent, no place is distant and unreachable. In the year 2020, CM Khandu trekked a distance of 24 km for 11 hours to meet the people of Luguthang village located 97 km away from Tawang. Situated at the height of 14,500 feet above sea level, this village had at that time only 10 houses and just 50 people residing there.

In March 2021, Pema Khandu became the first Chief Minister to reach Vijaynagar, the last administrative headquarters near the Myanmar border in Changlang district. He travelled a distance of 157 km from Miao on the road. Accompanied by some state cabinet ministers and officials, Khandu also held a public meeting in Vijaynagar and Gandhigram. He inspected the condition of the road and ensured that it was motorable by March 2022. It is pertinent to note that the 140 km long road, as promised by CM Khandu, has been constructed and is ready for public use.

Source: Arunachal Times

Road and Infrastructure projects: How Pema Khandu has become the “Nitin Gadkari” of Arunachal Pradesh

Under the leadership of CM Pema Khandu, Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed a significant surge in road construction and infrastructure projects. Once seen as a hard-to-reach Arunachal Pradesh, with the inauguration of the Donyi Polo Airport in 2022, Itanagar is just a three-hour flight away from New Delhi. The state government with the remarkable support of PM Modi-led Central government has transformed the state’s connectivity via roads. This holds special significance since Arunachal Pradesh shares border with a hostile China.

In January this year, the Modi government approved the construction of 1022 km long roads for Rs 2,205.19 crore in Arunachal Pradesh under the Vibrant Village Programme intending to ensure last-mile connectivity in the remote areas of the state. Under the scheme, around 105 road projects have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

In October last year, CM Khandu announced that a Frontier Highway would be constructed along the India-Tibet-China-Myanmar border and it will be around 20 km close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the international borders. For its construction, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari allocated Rs 6,621.62 crore in March this year. Besides enhancing connectivity and facilitating socio-economic growth, this highway would also prove beneficial in curbing migration and facilitating reverse migration.

“The frontier highway has a huge strategic value. It will bring transformational changes in road connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh. This will be beneficial for the Army too,” CM Khandu said.

Meanwhile, projects like the Trans-Arunachal Highway and the improvement of various rural roads have been prioritised to enhance accessibility and economic activity. Notably, the work of the trans-Arunachal highway is about 92% completed reflecting the commitment of the state government in ensuring road connectivity in the state.

‘Connectivity is the key’

Arunachal Pradesh now has more than 50,555 km of roads, a 65% increase over the last seven years from 30,692 km in 2016. The pace of road construction increased by more than nine times, adding up to over 2,838 km per year, much above the 300 km average created in the previous 70 years. Moreover, road density in Arunachal Pradesh has increased by 65% in the last seven years, from 36.65 km to 60.36 km per 100 km.

In the past seven years, numerous remote areas have been connected by the building of bridges across rivers. These include the Upper Siang district’s motorable suspension bridge over the River Siang, the Steel Arch Bridge over the River Yamne at Parak, the River Kabung bridge on the Dosing Pareng-Yibuk-Ligging road, the RCC bridge over the Sille River on Mirem, Mikong, Jonai Road and the Namchik River bridge that connects Hetlong village.

In February this year, CM Khandu inaugurated various infrastructure projects in the state’s Anjaw district, bordering Myanmar and China. He launched a 35-metre-long key steel girder RCC bridge on the Hayuliang to Manchal CO headquarters road. Khandu also dedicated the new infrastructure of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) at Hawai.

Efforts have been made by CM Khandu and his government to improve air connectivity within the state, including the operationalization of airports like the Pasighat Airport and plans for new airports in places like Tezu and Hollongi near Itanagar.

CM Khandu flagging off first commercial flight from Pasighat Airport to Guwahati in 2018 (Source: Arunachal24)

Hydropower projects

In another remarkable achievement, CM Khandu has focused on harnessing Arunachal Pradesh’s hydropower potential. Various stalled hydropower projects have been revived, and new projects have been initiated to make the state a significant power generator in the region. In August 2023, the state and the Central government joined forces to revive 12 stalled hydropower projects in the state.

“Towards this, Memorandums of Agreement have been signed in Itanagar, August 12, 2023, wherein 12 hydro-electric projects of cumulative Installed Capacity of about 11,517 MW have been allotted by the state government, to Hydro PSUs under the Union Ministry of Power, an official press release stated.

In April last year. CM Khandu announced that his government will build 50 mini hydropower projects along the border with China for the electrification of remote villages to tackle challenges posed by poor connectivity and mountainous terrain. “50 projects are being implemented in a phased manner and under Phase-I, 17 projects with an installed capacity of 1255 KW and at an estimated cost of ₹50 crore, have been taken up, CM Khandu said last year.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Modi has in the 10 years of his government frequently visited the northeastern states including Arunachal Pradesh. PM Modi’s visits proved to be a gift for the perennially neglected northeast. In line with his ambition of Viksit Bharat [Developed India], PM Modi has ensured that no state is left behind. PM Modi in March this year, laid the foundation stone of the 2,880 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydropower Project at a cost of Rs. 31,875 crores in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh at a Viksit Bharat Viksit Northeast.  

Pema Khandu’s ‘Sankalp’ to provide water, houses and health facilities

A central government effort accomplishes its goal only when the state government takes an active part in ensuring that the scheme’s benefits reach the general populace. Under Khandu’s leadership, Arunachal Pradesh became the first state to attain 100% saturation under the Jal Jeevan Mission. Arunachal Pradesh had only 22,796 houses with tap water connections on August 15, 2019, but this figure has since increased to 2,28,546. This achievement holds special significance given the difficult terrain and sparsely located population in the state.

Notably, alongside ensuring the effective implementation of JJM, CM Khandu launched Arunachal Jal Sankalp Yojna (AJSY) and spent around Rs 590.80 crores under AJSY covering 20989 households that were not covered under the Centre’s JJM. This is a perfect example of how visionary and hardworking leadership coupled with effective cooperation between Centre and State governments can yield benefits for the people.

It’s interesting to note that the state has built over 35,000 homes under the PM Awas Yojana, electrified over 3 lakh households, backed over 2,900 self-help groups (SHGs) that give the poorest people jobs, established its first medical college, installed 4G mobile towers to offer network coverage to security personnel and the “first villages,” and increased the state’s overall road infrastructure by 64%. Khandu government is also setting up a dedicated Development Cell for women entrepreneurs.

As jal, jungle, and zameen form an integral part of the lives of tribals in Arunachal Pradesh which has over 79% forest cover, the government needs to maintain a balance between infrastructure development and forest preservation. In this direction, the state cabinet adopted the “Pakke Declaration” at Pakke Tiger Reserve in Pakke Kessang district for climate-resilient development.

Pema Khandu’s efforts to resolve tribals vs settlers dispute

Besides development projects, CM Khandu has taken several steps to address the long-standing disputes between indigenous tribal communities and settlers in the state. His approach involves a combination of legal, administrative, and developmental measures aimed at ensuring harmony and equitable development for all communities. Khandu’s government has emphasized the strict enforcement of the ILP system to ensure that non-indigenous settlers comply with the regulations. The ILP application and issuance processes have been digitized to streamline the system and prevent illegal entry. In 2017, Pema Khandu established a Department of Indigenous Faith & Cultural Affairs (DIFCA) to preserve, promote and document the traditional customs, faith and culture of the Indigenous tribal communities.

The BJP government in the state has also launched initiatives to provide vocational training and employment opportunities to the youth from both indigenous and settler communities, thereby reducing economic disparities.

Notably, the settlement of Chakma and Hajong refugees from Bangladesh has been a contentious issue, with indigenous communities opposing their integration. Khandu government has ensured compliance with Supreme Court directives regarding the citizenship and rights of Chakma and Hajong refugees while negotiating with the central government to ensure that the concerns of indigenous communities are addressed. Moreover, there have been efforts to find balanced solutions that consider the humanitarian aspects of the refugee issue without compromising the rights and interests of the native tribals.

Congress governments neglected northeast India

Congress, during its long tenure in power, often failed to address the unique challenges and developmental needs of northeast India adequately. This neglect resulted in infrastructure deficits, economic stagnation, and social underdevelopment, contributing to a sense of alienation among the people of the region. Despite being strategically important, the northeastern states have long suffered from poor road connectivity under Congress rule. National Highway projects and state road development were slow, making travel and trade within the region difficult.

Furthermore, major railway projects that could connect the northeast with the rest of India and facilitate economic growth were delayed or ignored.

Until the Modi government came to power, many northeast states had inadequate air connectivity, with few airports and limited flight services.

Moreover, the northeast also suffered economic neglect in the pre-Modi era. The northeast is rich in natural resources like oil, natural gas, and minerals. However, these resources remained largely underdeveloped due to a lack of investment and infrastructure. The northeast region also lagged in industrial development due to a lack of central initiatives to promote industries. The absence of large-scale industries led to limited job opportunities and economic stagnation.

Historically, trips by Prime Ministers and high-ranking central officials to the northeast were rare, reflecting a lack of attention to the region’s difficulties and “Mann ki doori”. On the contrary, Prime Minister Modi has visited the northeast more than 60 times. Moreover, the law and order situation has been spectacularly improved in the northeast. Union Minister Jitendra Singh said last year that there has been a reduction of 63% in the incidents of violence from 8700 cases during the period 2006-14 under UPA to only 3195 cases during the period of 2014-22, during the NDA-led Government.

Arunachal Pradesh under remarkable leadership has achieved new strides of development and progress in the last 7 years. It is the collective efforts of the state government, central government and the hardworking people of the sunrise state that the state excels in various sectors despite the geographical challenges it faces. With the shift from UPA’s neglect to NDA’s much-needed attention and support, both Arunachal Pradesh and in turn, the BJP have benefitted. It is these collective efforts coupled with CM Pema Khandu’s extraordinary dedication to connecting with people that have improved the lives of the people of Arunachal Pradesh and the remarkable achievements have translated into a thumping 55% vote share and a massive third consecutive victory for the BJP.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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