Cong 'comeback man' dares BJP's 'decorated' Young Turk

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  • Published 31.03.09

It will be one tough fight between 38-year-old sitting BJP MP Kiren Rijiju and 45-year-old former education minister Takam Sanjoy of the Congress in Arunachal (West) parliamentary seat.

At least, that is how initial vibes from the polling field go. Based on past trends, it will not be a cakewalk for Rijiju, who secured 1,23,951 votes to defeat Kamen Ringu of the Arunachal Congress by 47,424 votes during the 2004 parliamentary polls. The young MP’s eye-catching exploits inside and outside the House, mostly highlighting the Chinese Army “incursions” into Arunachal territory, embarrassing the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, did little to add to his victory margin.

Chosen the Best Young Parliamentarian, Rijiju had also initiated 91 debates, the highest by any of his peers, last year. A widely travelled man and member of Committee on Energy, Consultative Committee, under the ministry of tribal affairs and DoNER, Rijiju is raising issues closer to the heart during campaigning.

“If voted to power, the top priority for the BJP will be implementation of a special financial package, formation of a labour welfare fund (LWF), and implementation of the Minimum Wages Act for nearly one lakh employees and workers in the state. My party does not toe the line of the ruling Congress in the state that failed to live up to the expectations of the employees who are unhappy with the government for not implementing the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission,” the articulate Rijiju observes.

His supporters call him a catalyst of change, predicting that the parliamentary polls on April 16 and the subsequent Assembly polls will end “Congress hegemony” at the Centre and state.

“Though I belong to the Nyishi community, I will vote for Rijiju and many Congress supporters like me will do the same,” said T.G. Tara, a resident.

That remains to be seen because former education minister Takam Sanjoy, who also belongs to the Nyishi tribe and is from Palin area of Kurung Kumey district, is no pushover by any account. Sidelined within his own party circles, Takam had to claw back from the brink to earn a party ticket for his debut in the parliamentary polls.

As adviser to chief minister Dorjee Khandu, Takam Sanjoy lost to the BJP’s Balo Raja, a low profile candidate from Palin Assembly constituency in 2004. A bété noire of former chief minister Gegong Apang, he was beginning to lose favour but a dramatic revolt by Apang’s own cabinet colleagues led by present chief minister Dorjee Khandu in 2007 revived his fortunes.

With former chief minister and present Rajya Sabha member Mukut Mithi’s backing, Sanjoy pipped Arunachal Pradesh Youth Congress president Likha Saya, who was backed by Arunachal PCC president Nabam Tuki.

Jarjum Ete, an activist and chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan and the sister of home minister Jarbom Gamlin, is also a contender.

Though Sanjoy lacks Rijiju’s gift of the gab, he has the support of the ruling government that is out to ensure his victory.

By his own admission, it is a “win-win” situation for him. “I have the support of all the MLAs and the electorate of 33 Assembly segments of the Arunachal West seat. I am pretty confident of a turnaround as the Congress government has earnestly striven for all-round development of the state. After receiving a sum of Rs 24,000 crore as the Prime Minister’s package, the state government initiated prompt measures to connect all the district headquarters of the state under the Trans Arunachal Highway, besides railway and air links. The government’s all out efforts for development in the education, health, agriculture and horticulture sectors for improving the standard of living is there for all to see,” Sanjoy said.

Rijiju, too, appears wary of Takam on one count.

“I don’t have the money and muscle power to unleash. I am pinning my hopes on the voters’ conscience. This is a battle between my performance and the Congress’s money and muscle power. I have people’s love and affection and I am sure I will have the last laugh.” Only time will tell.