Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister and BJP floor leader in the assembly Y. Patton lost key portfolio of Roads and Bridges days after he almost set a deadline to wrap up Naga peace talks by August 15.
In a government notification, Chief Secretary J. Alam informed that Roads and Bridges portfolio would be henceforth catered to by NDPP legislator and advisor, H. Chuba Chang.
Deputy Chief Minister Patton, however, will continue to handle the key portfolio of Home.
In what was considered a key development, Patton said at a public function in Dimapur on Tuesday (April 19) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have been urged to announce ‘resolution’ of the Naga political problem during Independence Day during a possible visit to the state.
He said separate requests have been made to PM Modi and the Home Minister (Shah) during recent meetings in Delhi between the central leaders and a Naga delegation led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.
Patton said, now that centre’s peace emissary A.K. Mishra is in Nagaland and is meeting important stakeholders, the students leaders and other social organisations should impress upon Mishra that ‘enough is enough’ and more than 25 years have been spent on negotiations.
They all should now urge that a final announcement of a solution should be made either by the Prime Minister or the Home Minister by August 15.
Patton also said once elections are over next year, it would not be possible for any state legislator to step aside.
Patton’s words were significant as influential stakeholder NNPG also has lately demanded resignation of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and all 60 MLAs from the House to enable “an inclusive transitional arrangement for implementation of the Indo-Naga Agreement, for an enduring peaceful coexistence”.
The NNPG has already inked Agreed Position with the centre in 2017 and has been awaiting patiently for the final Peace Accord.
The NNPG is an umbrella organisation of seven militant groups while NSCN (IM), which started formal talks with the centre in August 1997, has substantial base in Tangkhul-dominated areas of Manipur.
Top NDPP leaders say there was no major political difference as is being out to be and BJP’s in-charge of Nagaland, Nail Kohli, was taken into confidence as the regional party believed that the new arrangement had to be accepted by the BJP as party of a deal under which the saffron party had been allocated a Rajya Sabha berth.
BJP’s Nagaland women wing chief S Phangnon Konyak was last month elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha giving her the unique opportunity of being second Naga women to be a Member of Parliament and first BJP member of Parliament from Christian-and-tribal dominated Nagaland.
Thus it might be a ‘small price’ being paid by the Lotus party or even Patton to ensure the first woman MP from Nagaland on a BJP ticket.
However, observers say things go beyond the surface. The change of portfolio has happened on the eve of state elections.
“It is an election related decision by Chief Minister Rio,” said a BJP leader in Nagaland on the condition of anonymity.
Answering questions, he, however hastened to add, “it is well known that elections are expensive affairs in Nagaland and who knows it better than Chief Minister Rio who has been in power punctuating with a brief gap since 2003”.
The broad hint is that like slog overs means run making season in a limited overs cricket match; almost similar rules could perhaps apply to electoral politics too.
Nagaland politics could be at crossroads but the road map is seemingly the old one !
The BJP has always made a big fuss about Manmohan Singh’s ‘compulsions of coalition politics’; well Nalin Kohlis and Y Pattons too have their compulsions.
In politics truly, the most important element is power and power is directly linked to juicy portfolios. All these for people as during elections the people and the neta class will be yet again face to face to each other.
In a joint statement, NNPG leaders led by N. Kitovi Zhimomi has said lately: “Our great hope in the days ahead is that the august House and members of Nagaland Assembly collectively will look at new direction, as primary stakeholders for the future, will put in papers en-masse to enable an inclusive transitional arrangement for implementation of the Indo-Naga greement, for an enduring peaceful coexistence.”
The NNPG is against delay in signing of final accord while NSCN (IM) said it cannot accept any pact that does not guarantee a separate Flag and Naga Constitution. While peace parleys are still on and a special emissary AK Mishra is camping in Nagaland since last Monday, the Centre has obviously rejected the twin demands.
(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’. Views are personal)