Monk tilting at Khandu’s bastion in Tawang

[ Taba Ajum ]

ITANAGAR, Apr 6: Geshe Thupten Kunphen is going to create history by becoming the first person to fight an election against the mighty Khandu family for its bastion, the Mukto assembly constituency in Tawang district, for the first time in 25 years.
Kunphen is fighting the election against Chief Minister Pema Khandu. This is the first time that the CM is going to taste electoral battle as so far he has been elected unopposed twice.
Earlier, his father, late Dorjee Khandu, had represented the same constituency and had won unopposed three times.
The battle for Mukto is a David vs Goliath situation as Khandu is the richest candidate going into the assembly election. He has declared movable assets worth Rs 1,43,87,82,786 and immovable assets worth Rs 19,62,75,356, which totals to assets worth Rs 1,63,50,58,142.
On the other hand, Kunphen, who is fighting on an INC ticket, has declared movable assets worth Rs 41,29,783, and stands at the 153rd position on the list of declaration of assets. Most of his campaigns are being run on donations offered by well-wishers.
Kunphen is a former abbot of the Gontse Gaden Rabgye-Ling Monastery (GRLM) in West Kameng HQ Bomdila. He is a disciple of former minister, late TG Rinponche, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2014. The late Rinponche was highly revered among the Buddhists of Tawang and West Kameng districts. He was considered to be the political rival of the Khandu family.
Kunphen completed his monastic education from the Dre-Loling Monastic University in southern India. Later, during his tenure as the deputy abbot of GRLM, he went to the USA in 2009 to serve as the guru at the Drepung Loseling Monastery there. During his 16 months there, he travelled to over 25 states of the USA, imparting dharma teachings.
In his manifesto, two points stands out: to stop construction of big dam projects in Tawang district, and to work for creation of Mon autonomous region.
Making an appeal to the people of Mukto constituency, he said, “Now is the time to show the power of the people in a democracy. Therefore, please analyze and examine properly before casting your valuable votes, and choose a genuine person as your leader in the assembly election, for the future of Mon region.”
Kunphen added: “I do not have any agenda to promote my own career but to promote social development. We should stand united for the sake of uplifting the downtrodden citizens.”
His chances of victory are considered to be slim, but his decision to fight the election against a family which has money and power on its side has galvanized a section of the people of Tawang district.
“CM Khandu will now know what democracy is. His family has been running Tawang district as their personal fiefdom. He is the CM, his younger brother Tsering Tashi and cousin brother Jambey Tashi are all MLAs. Geshe Kunphen is already the winner in the eyes of thousands of people who adore his decision to take on a mighty family,” said a resident of Tawang who did not wish to be named.