Buddhist Monk To Fight Arunachal Chief Minister In Assembly Polls

Indian General Elections

The Mukto Assembly seat in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, currently held by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, is set to witness a triangular fight after a gap of 20 years.

Written By Press Trust Of India | Mumbai | Updated On:

The Mukto Assembly seat in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, currently held by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, is set to witness a triangular fight after a gap of 20 years.

Since 1999, the MLAs in the constituency, along with the India-China border, has been elected without a contest.

The Congress has fielded Thupten Kunphen from the seat this time, while the Janata Dal (Secular) nominated 39-year-old Buddhist monk Lama Lobsang Gyatso.

Elections to the 60 Assembly constituencies and two Lok Sabha seats in Arunachal Pradesh will be held concurrently on April 11.

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Gyatso, who has been leading movements against mega dam projects in Tawang, will be taking on Khandu, who won unopposed from the seat in 2014 Assembly polls as well 2011 by-election, necessitated by his father and former CM Dorjee Khandu's death in a helicopter crash.

Dorjee Khandu, who had contested and won Mukto seat since 1990, had locked horns with Janata Dal candidate Rimchem Dorjee in 1995.

Barring the 1995 elections, the seat, dominated by the Monpa community, had been loyal to the Khandu family, which had set the ball rolling for hydroelectric power projects in the district over the years. Gyatso, who has been associated with the Anna Hazare movement against corruption said, "In 2014, too, I had wanted to contest the election, but could not. This year I have planned and decided to contest from the constituency to make people aware about their choices."

In April 2016, he was arrested for his opposition to two proposed mega dams in the district. On May 2 the same year, the police opened fire on protesters demanding his release, killing two monks.

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The 39-year-old monk claimed that the Khandu family has "sold lies" to the people of the district, while promising them upgraded infrastructure.

"There has been lot of protests and unrest among the people over dam construction. We have moved several platforms against the projects, which are 'anti-people'. In spite of our legal battle and democratic movements, we have not been able to close the chapter.

"I live life like a fugitive, often having to move in disguise to avoid those who have opposed our protests against the dam projects, which have been cleared without abiding by the environmental norms," Gyatso added. 

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