Naga CM Rio rounds up 21 more MPs, prepares to take on ‘mighty BJP’
By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, April 29 (SocialNews.XYZ) The biggest takeaway is a homecoming. Regionalism is the new flavor of North East politics. Most importantly, NDPP leader and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is ready to take on the mighty BJP.
But has Rio in the process given its critics armor to demand presidential rule?
The merger of no less than 21 deputies led by former chief minister TR Zeliang, a former acolyte who became an enemy of Neiphiu Rio, took place in a few hours. NDPP at the organizational level.
Well, Nagaland is back with its famous headhunting or headcounting political games. On Friday, no less than 21 deputies from the Naga Popular Front (NPF) left the party and decided to merge with another regional group, the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) led by Rio.
“A letter dated 4/29/2022 has been received from the Chairman of NDPP (Chingwang Konyak) agreeing to the merger,” a communication from the state assembly said.
The question is not how important the setback is for Shurhozelie, the veteran regionalist, or even for the NPF; the real problem is the NDPP and in particular Chief Minister Rio’s relationship with the BJP.
Now around 45-48 MPs are with Rio in the 60-member Assembly and will he continue to need the support of 12 BJP legislators? Or why should he entertain the tantrums of BJP leaders?
Earlier this year, the NPF formally asked the NDPP to merge with the party and even asked Chief Minister Rio to “lead” the new party.
“We invite CM Neiphiu Rio and his deputies to come together, as there is a desire of all among the Naga family for the regional party of NPF and NDPP to get along together,” an NPF spokesperson said. said in January.
It was understood that Rio only wanted such a game if it had organizational leadership, that is, the presidency of the new regional party. A seasoned regionalist and traditionally a non-congressional leader, Shurhozelie was not inclined to relinquish organizational leadership of the new regional force in Rio, which was once a prominent face of Congress in state politics.
For all intents and purposes, the two parties, the NDPP and the NPF, were already working with a common goal. NPF lawmakers recently shed their opposition cloak and threw their support behind the NDPP-BJP government.
While Nagaland had an unopposed government, NPF leader Zeliang was designated chairman of the UDA, comprising the NDPP, BJP and NPF.
But Rio still has multiple challenges ahead. First, perhaps the center considers that it failed or was not keen on convincing NSCN (IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah to drop the twin demands of the Naga flag and a separate Naga constitution.
These issues are blocking the peace process in Nagaland and the final peace pact would be a major milestone for the Narendra Modi government.
Some central BJP leaders suggest that Rio’s alleged link to the NSCN(IM) is ‘not just an allegation’ as the influence of guns and money was a key instrument in the elections in Nagaland since 2003.
Then-Congress Chief Minister SC Jamir first alleged in 2003 that the Socialist Nationalist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) intimidated voters in some areas during the 2003 Assembly elections.
There is now an ongoing ED “money laundering” case against five of CM Rio’s associates. It can be opened at any time and take a somewhat embarrassing twist, critics say.
Already five people have been summoned for questioning by the ED and the Gauhati High Court has refused to suspend the same. Of course, this episode has recently added to Rio’s nervousness.
Technically, the BJP leaders in Nagaland don’t have much ground or tools to fight Rio’s machinations and numbers game (gaining the support of 21 more NPF MPs). But some Nagaland BJP leaders are making a few frantic calls to central leaders.
Some believe that the demand for the imposition of the president’s rule under certain pretexts is not excluded. There is also an exceptional situation related to the Naga peace talks, which are in their final phase.
Thus, at any time, the Indian government can say either that it will allow an alternative interim arrangement or even that it will impose presidential rule to facilitate new elections and the “participation” of ultra groups in the democratic process.
Regional forces are of great political importance in Nagaland and other northeastern states. In the past, big brother Congress’ approach was dangerous, and now the BJP is following the same path.
In Manipur, the BJP’s strategy on the eve of elections earlier this year angered regional partner NDPP in Nagaland and even the NPP in Meghalaya.
The BJP kicked the NPP and NPF out of its alliance and then contested the 60 seats to come to power on its own.
Obviously, the trepidation is that the Saffron Festival will try the same game in Nagaland and possibly Meghalaya as well.
The two chief ministers, Neiphiu Rio in Nagaland and Conrad Sangma in Meghalaya, have so far worked with the BJP to ensure their own survival. But nervousness prevails.
And nervousness often forces you to take an assertive position in politics.
Lately, Rio took the Roads and Bridges portfolio away from Deputy CM and BJP Floor Chief in the Assembly, Y. Patton.
An aggrieved Patton was later offered the additional land resource portfolio by Rio. This offer was firmly rejected by Patton, who said he was unwilling to take an additional portfolio from his own BJP colleague and Minister Paiwang Konyak.
Showing clear signs that the differences between the NDPP and the BJP have widened, a key BJP Nagaland leader said, “It was a double game employed by Chief Minister Rio. The Land Resources Ministry is with another BJP minister, Paiwang Konyak, and that’s what Patton did. the right thing by rejecting it. We cannot take each other’s wallets and allow the NDPP to enjoy the biggest slice of the pie.
(Nirendra Dev is a journalist based in New Delhi. He is also the author of the books “The Talking Guns: North East India” and “Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth”. Opinions are personal)