No Dams Given: In a First, Monk to Fight Against Arunachal CM for His Green Abode
Lobsang Gyatso, the Independent Monk, who leads the anti-Dam movement in Arunachal said that the CM was "never elected but rather selected," adding that his unopposed office never learned to turn trust into votes.
File photo of the Independent Buddhist monk, Lobsang Gyatso (News18)
Guwahati: For the first time, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu is going to have a fight for his seat in the state’s ensuing assembly polls slated to be held concurrently with the Lok Sabha polls on April 11. A Buddhist monk, Lobsang Gyatso, also known for his role as an anti-dam activist from the state, has decided to give Khandu his first ever poll fight this season.
The incumbent Chief Minister’s political career rolled in June 2011 when he had won a by-election from Mukto constituency of Tawang district unopposed following the death of his father and then Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu in a chopper crash.
Subsequently, he won the 2014 Arunachal election once again ‘unopposed’ and then after a yearlong political crisis in the hill state, in 2016, he took over as the Chief Minister from Indian National Congress. Khandu later joined the saffron party.
Gyatso said, “He (Khandu) was never elected but rather selected. This means, he never has tasted how to win the hearts of the people and transfer them into votes. Moreover, the anti-incumbency factor is very high in the state and I am sure, I’m going to give him a tough run. The pressure on him is immense for sure.”
Despite being vocal against the planned hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh for almost a decade, Gyatso only came into limelight in 2016, when he was arrested for spearheading an anti-dam movement in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang region.
His arrest sparked huge public outcry leading to a massive public rally outside the Tawang police station demanding his release. Gunshots were fired by police and two monks were killed too. Following the event, multiple probes were initiated. The Supreme Court too has taken up the case for hearing.
“Having hydropower projects at the cost of environment is unacceptable. Tawang has over 25 mini and micro hydro-power projects. Now the government wants to have two mega dams which are going to bring adverse effect on the environment. The absence of political power can diffuse the anti-dam movement and that’s why I have decided to fight in the electoral politics,” he added.
The government of Arunachal Pradesh has planned to build two large hydropower projects (the 600-megawatt Tawang- I and the 800-megawatt Tawang-II) in the district. Protests against the projects have been led by monks for years, with Gyatso leading from the front.
Gyatso had earlier planned to fight the 2014 polls and had filed his nominations to contest for the seat but later withdrew it after his fellow monks asked him to.
“I am reaching Tawang within a week to file my nominations this time. Right now I don’t have any political affiliation and I may fight as an Independent candidate. Moreover, since election is an expensive affair, I would also need support from all,” he added.
Gyatso is currently in New Delhi. The poll notification would be issued on March 18 while the last date of filing nominations has been fixed on March 25.
Mukto has been Khandu’s family’s stronghold since 1990 when former chief minister late Dorjee Khandu, won the seat unopposed for the first time. Senior Khandu was elected from Mukto until his death in 2011. Tawang district has three Assembly constituencies, Tawang, Lumla and Mukto.
“The pressure is obviously on Pema Khadu who never faced opposition. Moreover, the state needs mature and visionary leaders,” said Gyatso who believes that the current government has completely failed to lead the state in a proper direction and earn people’s confidence.
“Take the recent violence over the Permanent Residential Certificate (PRC) issue as for an example. People lost lives, properties were damaged just because of the government’s failure to convey the right messages and spread awareness. In this age of connectivity and development, our government has failed to pass its words to the people and human lives were lost for that reason. It only proves their immature way of handling a sensitive issue. It needs to be changed,” he alleged.
Pema Khandu faced major criticism recently after he and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein had announced that people from six communities including Moran, Deuri, Mishing, Sonowal, Adivasi tea tribes and ex-servicemen residing in Changlang and Namsai districts prior to 1968 will be given PRC. Protests erupted opposing the government’s move to table the recommendation in the state assembly.
“It is time that the people of the state unite to uproot the legacy of failed leaders. My first priority is to create awareness and educate people of my state in the right direction. I am very much hopeful that the people in Arunachal Pradesh have already understood what needs to be done and will support my effort to bring in the much-awaited change,” the monk said.
Another monk and his friend, Tsering Dorjee, is too likely to contest the Tawang assembly constituency. The incumbent MLA of that seat is Tsering Tashi, Pema’s brother.
In Arunachal Pradesh assembly, out of 60 the ruling BJP has 48 MLAs, while opposition Congress and National Peoples’ Party (NPP) have five MLAs each. There are two independent MLAs in the Assembly now. A total of 7, 94,162 voters, including 4, 01,601 women, would franchise their voting rights in the state as well as Parliamentary poll simultaneously on April 11.
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