Itanagar: In a dramatic turn of events, the Congress on Saturday chose Pema Khandu as its new leader in Arunachal replacing restored Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, hours ahead of a scheduled Assembly floor test in a bid to save its government.
Pema Khandu, son of late chief minister Dorjee Khandu, was unanimously elected leader at a meeting of Congress Legislature Party, which was attended by 44 MLAs, including rebel Khaliko Pul, who became chief minister in February with outside support from BJP.
The Assembly now has an effective strength of 58 in which BJP has 11 and Independents 2. With Speaker Nabam Rebia and the return of dissidents, the Congress strength has gone up to 45.
In case a floor test takes place, the Congress is tipped to win the trial of strength.
37-year-old Pema, a former minister of Tourism and Water Resources, is an MLA from Mukto (ST) constituency. A graduate from Hindu College, Delhi, Pema became a Secretary of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee in 2005 and the president of the District Congress Committee in Tawang in 2010.
Governor Tathagata Roy had directed Tuki, who was restored to the post on Thursday by a historic verdict of the Supreme Court, to face a trial of strength in the Assembly on Saturday.
Roy had rejected Tuki's request for postponing the floor test by at least 10 days.
Khaliko Pul, who was unseated by the apex court verdict, had commanded the support of 30 MLAs of People's Party of Arunachal Pradesh, which they had joined in December last after they revolted against Congress.