Arunachal Pradesh 2019

In Arunachal Pradesh, Hayuliang misses the original chowkidar

Kalikho Pul. Special arrangement

Kalikho Pul. Special arrangement  

Much before the BJP launched the ‘Main bhi chowkidar’ campaign and the Congress countered with ‘Chowkidar chor hai’, a real-life chowkidar (watchman) living close to the China border became the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. But his reign was not recognised by law. In July 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed his “rebel Congress” government and restored that of his predecessor Nabam Tuki to the “previously existing state of affairs.” A month later, the dismissed Kalikho Pul was found dead in the Chief Minister’s official bungalow in Itanagar that he continued to occupy.

The Assembly election on April 11 will be the first for Hayuliang since 1995 without Mr. Pul, though his wife Dasanglu Pul had won the bypoll after his death on a BJP ticket.

Ms. Pul rode the sympathy wave to win the November 2016 by-election by 942 votes. It was a close call in the constituency where her husband had won all the Assembly elections from 1995 to 2014 with a victory margin of more than 90% in a constituency that has a little over 11,000 voters.

“I have reaped the benefit of the boundless love the people here have for my late husband. But I believe the work I have done for the constituency in a short period would reflect in the outcome of this election. Many who doubted my ability as a woman have changed their minds,” Ms. Pul, 41, said from Hawai, the headquarters of Anjaw district bordering China.

“People here miss him as much as I do. I wish I could take time off my campaign schedule to spend time at the old Hawai circle office where my husband worked as a chowkidar,” she added.

Soon after taking charge as Chief Minister on February 19, 2016, Mr. Pul said he took up the job of a night-watchman in 1981 at a monthly salary of ₹212 primarily to fund his education.

“From a chowkidar of a government office for 12 nocturnal hours, I am now the chowkidar of Arunachal Pradesh 24 hours a day and with much greater responsibility,” Mr. Pul, who was an orphan, had said soon after he was sworn in as the Chief Minister on February 19, 2019.

The Congress downplayed Mr. Pul’s chowkidari (guarding) of the frontier State since it came after “stealing the Congress government” -- a reference to his rebellion that eventually saw BJP take over power in Arunachal Pradesh in December 2016.

“There is no sympathy left for the CM who wasn’t technically one, and my rival has suppressed information in her affidavit against which I have lodged a complaint. The people here want change from the neglect of the constituency under BJP,” the 51-year-old Lupalum Kri, the Congress candidate for Hayuliang, said.

Mr. Kri’s wife Yompi Kri had lost narrowly to Ms. Pul in the by-election. He hopes to win this time for his wife, the party and the people of Hayuliang to show what “real chowkidari” of a constituency means.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 11:35:24 PM |

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