BJP to feel heat of Congress allegation of NSCN ‘influence’ on Rio govt

The chorus for dismissal of the Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP-BJP-NPF ‘opposition-less’ government in Nagaland is growing. Now arch rivals and marginalised state Congress says the Rio Ministry should be dismissed.

Chief Minister Rio’s political problems are growing by the day and more and more voices are coming out demanding the dismissal of his government.

Nagaland Congress president Kewekhape Therie’s claim that the Legislative Assembly and the state government are allegedly run by ‘super government’, that is the NSCN-IM will mount pressure on the BJP and Narendra Modi-led Centre as well.

The BJP has been Rio’s ally since 2003. Initially Rio or for that matter even Therie were in the Naga People’s Front (NPF).

While Therie fell out with Rio within a short span of the regional party coming to power and he walked back to the Congress’ fold; Rio parted ways with NPF in 2017 December hardly two months before 2018 Assembly polls.

The Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) was floated and the BJP aligned with the new regional party which is headed by former MP and state Minister Chingwang Konyak as the president, but the de facto power centre is none other than the Chief Minister Rio himself.

“There is a ‘super government’ directing the Nagaland Legislative Assembly…. This is not a people’s government,” Therie said at a press conference at Kohima on Wednesday.

Referring to the NSCN-IM statement made a few days ago, he said for 17 years now it appears that the Nagaland Assembly is playing the role of facilitators as “assigned by the NSCN-IM”.

“I had expected that the Chief Minister will react, but this is the fourth day, he has not reacted,” Therie said.

Therie referred to the NSCN-IM statement issued on May 27 where it accused legislators of “overstepping their role as facilitator” and going beyond their “assigned roles” in making bewildering statements on Naga solution.

He said the NSCN-IM’s accusation was an admission that the group was running the state government and the state authorities continued to fund the group with money from development funds and also allowing extortion systematically.

The group had flayed Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Y. Patton (BJP) and K Azo Neinu (NPF) and said that their statements would tantamount to overstepping their role as facilitators when they leap beyond their assigned role, making “bewildering statements” on the Naga solution.

At the same time, Therie maintained that Rio has now instead stated that “as facilitator, I have nothing to say”.

“Does he represent Nagaland people or he represents nothing,” a visibly anguished Therie said at the media press conference.

“If he (Rio) represents nothing, then why should he sit on the chair of the people’s government? He (Rio) should be dismissed,” the Congress leader said.

“This is the demand I am going to submit to the Governor (Jagdish Mukhi).”

Observers say it goes without stating that for BJP to continue in a regime that is allegedly working at the behest of NSCN-IM or is “assigned” by the militant organisation will make things difficult for the saffron party.

Even otherwise a section of BJP leaders have been pressing for President’s Rule in the state.

At the media conference, Therie maintained: “This government (of Rio) is no more people’s government”.

There is a strong section of common people and Rio’s opponents who say that the state government itself is delaying the peace process as ‘status quo’ suits both the NSCN-IM and an influential section in the state polity.

Patton, also the BJP floor leader in the Assembly, has gone vocal and said: “Some big (perhaps militant) leaders do not want a solution. They want to keep relaxing and enjoying the comforts of life with money collected through extortion and taxes. If this continues, I would say, go to hell. You won’t go to heaven. How can you go to heaven by causing so much hardship to the public?

We must come out openly now. It is high time. Enough is enough.”

The Central government agencies have also expressed concern over extortion and money collecting venues at various places in the state and the same sentiment was also reportedly shared by Governor Mukhi.

Patton had also said that he felt like meeting Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah that if the Naga solution cannot be achieved “then impose President’s Rule… I am speaking for the Nagas”.

The NNPG, the umbrella organisation of seven militant groups, which is opposed to NSCN-IM and its demand for flag and Constitution, has also called for the resignation of the Rio ministry.

Veteran Naga leader and former Chief Minister S.C. Jamir maintained that all 60 MLAs have said they are ready to “vacate the seats to pave the way for new arrangements”.

“So their moral obligation is to even voluntarily give up as Naga and as representatives of the people, whatever they say, time has come to demonstrate.”

Much to the embarrassment of the NDPP leadership, a newly floated Rising People’s Party has also demanded imposition of the President’s Rule in the state owing to alleged large-scale corruption.

In such messy and complex situations, it appears, the BJP will have to redraw its political strategies in Nagaland.

“We do not want to share our political strategies, but some issues are serious. A strong statement from NSCN-IM against India’s ruling party and its elected legislators were unacceptable and so the Nagaland BJP media cell has issued a rejoinder,” one BJP leader pointed out.

“They (NSCN-IM) need to let the public know what they think and want. We need leaders that represent the voice of the people and not those who shy away when their thoughts and opinions matter the most,” the BJP Nagaland statement said.

It further stated on May 29 that “right now, our leaders need to speak out for it is high time now… Nagas need to know the truth as the Naga political issue and its related problems are not something which have to be kept in the dark”.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books “The Talking Guns: North East India” and “Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth”. The views expressed are personal)




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