Junior home minister Kiren Rijiju is 45 and flamboyant with a liking for khadi. He also has a penchant for controversies.
It is no surprise that the clean-shaven and bespectacled politician has threatened to thrash the opposition parties “with shoes” after his name was linked to an alleged scam in his home state, Arunachal Pradesh.
For his colleagues in the BJP, Rijiju has always been the man who wears his heart on his sleeve and not shy of walking out on a party which he believes cannot fulfil his political ambitions.
Rijiju first entered parliament in 2004, then just 33, as a BJP lawmaker but left the party after losing the 2009 election. He returned in 2012 and eventually got a ministerial position after winning the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Party leaders describe him as a man full of energy, always wanting to indulge in politics of patronage to build a constituency for himself beyond the limits of his Lok Sabha boundaries.
“He walked out after realising that the BJP lacked organisation muscle in Arunachal to fulfil his chief ministerial ambition. He could not survive in the Congress either,” said a party leader.
At the peak of negotiations with the BJP leadership in 2011, he had told the party to wake up to the “reality” of northeast politics and tune its strategy accordingly.
It is not lost on the party that the man seen as the flag-bearer of the Hindutva ideology in the northeast is a Buddhist himself.
The response from the BJP leadership was not encouraging but Rijiju, then an advisor to chief minister Dorjee Khandu, had few choices but return to the saffron party.
Between 2004 and 2009 — his first stint as Lok Sabha MP — Rijiju grabbed eyeballs in the BJP and the RSS with his “nationalist” stand, not a very common trait in people from the region. He was born in a village that came under Chinese occupation in the 1962 war.
BJP had won both Lok Sabha seats in Arunachal Pradesh in 2004 but Rijiju was far more flamboyant and extroverted than the other MP, Tapir Gao.
As an alumnus of Hansraj College in Delhi, he knew how to survive in the national capital.
Gao would often remain in the backdrop when Rijiju addressed the media on issues related to the northeast.
“Gao was more committed to the party and the ideology. But Rijiju was a smart politician,” another BJP leader said.
Rijiju was a favourite of LK Advani, then the leader of opposition, and Sushma Swaraj, but was never affiliated to any camps in the BJP. This helped him in 2014, too, when Modi decided to chose new faces for the ministries after a landslide victory.
Lady luck smiled on Rijiju as Gao lost the election. It would have been a difficult choice to choose between them for a ministerial job if both had won.