Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu clearly makes for a worthy inheritor of the legacy of Gaya Ram (Gaya Lal, actually). In 1967, Lal, the MLA representing Hassanpur in the Haryana Assembly, changed parties thrice within a fortnight—first from the Congress to the United Front, then back to the Congress, and within nine hours of that, back to the United Front—and thus became the gilded standard for turncoats. On the instance of his short-lived homecoming, Congress leader Rao Birendra Singh had told the press, “Gaya Ram is now Aaya Ram” (the pun intended being ‘Ram who had left is now Ram who has come back’)—making an obvious error with the name. But, that gave rise to a pithy media coinage that captures the often farcical nature of Indian politics like no other phrase does—Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram (Ram comes, Ram goes), used even today for turncoats, made a legend of a rather unknown politician. Gaya Lal’s multiple defections helped bring the anti-defection law, but that has been able to do little to stop the tribe of disloyals from growing.
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Coming back to Khandu, the Arunachal chief minister’s trail of shifting loyalties would seem no less scandalous. On September 16, 2016, exactly three months after he replaced Nabam Tuki as the chief minister—this was after Tuki had been upstaged by the late Khalikho Pul with unseemly support from the BJP in December 2015, and the SC had to intervene—Khandu led 43 of the 44 Congress MLAs to the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA). On December 31, Khandu again pulled a Gaya Lal, and joined the BJP with 32 other PPA MLAs. With that, BJP is all set to gain its tenth state in the country, though with questionable legitimacy.