New Delhi: There is nothing unusual about a state chief minister seeking an audience with the country’s prime minister, and succeeding in getting it at once.
So it was that the newly elected chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday afternoon.
What made the routine call unusual is that Khandu is still waiting for the president and vice president of his own party, the Congress, to grant him an audience.
As per sources in the Arunachal chief minister’s office, Khandu sought an appointment with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday, and also with the prime minister. “While they are yet to give him time, the response came immediately from the PM’s office. It has left Mr. Khandu pleasantly surprised,” the sources said.
“It is certainly a sign of a good beginning of the state’s relationship with the Centre after the recent sudden political developments. But it is also rather odd that the PM could make the time to meet the chief minister but his own party’s national leadership has not. It looks like the leadership has not learnt anything from the past,” a disappointed senior state party functionary told The Wire.
It may be recalled that rebel Congress leader Kalikho Pul had camped in New Delhi for months together to meet Rahul and Sonia Gandhi to air his grievances against the then state chief minister Nabam Tuki. Finally, when Rahul Gandhi gave Pul an audience, it was too late for the party leadership to save the Tuki government. Arunachal plunged in to political uncertainty for months together. Though the Supreme Court’s June 13 verdict gave the Congress an upper hand, it had to eventually replace Tuki with Khandu to bring the rebels back to the party fold.
Speaking to The Wire on Sunday evening, Congress General Secretary C. P. Joshi, in charge of Arunachal affairs, confirmed that no date has been set yet for Khandu to meet either Sonia or Rahul Gandhi. “It is a weekend,” he said.
On asked about Khandu meeting Modi, he said, “I am not aware of it.” Soon after meeting Modi, Khandu visited the Congress headquarters, where he met Joshi.
While the details of Khandu’s meeting with the prime minister are not yet known, sources said, “It was just a courtesy visit. Since Khandu is visiting Delhi for the first time as a chief minister, he needed to pay a visit to the prime minister.”
Last week, speaking to a section of the media, former Congressman and now the head of BJP’s regional platform NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance), Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “The Arunachal story is not over yet.” He said the MLAs had to return to the Congress because they had no option left.
Khandu, before returning to Congress – reportedly fearing disqualification from the house following the Supreme Court verdict – was a part of the government headed by Pul under the aegis of the People’s Party of Arunachal, a NEDA ally.
Khandu, at 37, is the country’s youngest chief minister.
UPDATE: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi met Pema Khandu on Monday (July 25) morning while party president Sonia Gandhi gave him time later in the day.