Efforts by TR Zeliang and Naga People’s Front to both cajole and coerce its long-term ally BJP has come to nought as the saffron party and the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) are headed to the ruling bench in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
Curtains fell on the drama over the formation of government with Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma reaching Kohima to iron out the fine details of the coalition, christened People’s Democratic Alliance. With this decision, the BJP broke its 15-year alliance with the NPF.
Addressing a press conference at Hotel Vivor, where MLAs of NDPP have been camping since the fractured verdict hit the state, Sarma confirmed that BJP will go with its pre-poll alliance partner to form the government under the chief ministership of Neiphiu Rio.
“… BJP has already extended its support to Neiphiu Rio for forming the next government in Nagaland,” Sarma categorically adding that he had discussed in detail “architecture of the government, how NDPP and BJP will be represented in the new government, and how we can ensure stability in Nagaland, and we arrived at some final conclusion.” He didn’t reveal any information on the share of cabinet berths the alliance partners will have.
Speculations over the BJP being in back-channel talks with the NPF had been rife, especially with the BJP not officially severing ties with the regional party. On being asked, Sarma finally broke silence on BJP’s ties with the NPF. “Today I can officially say that we have no truck with NPF, there is no question of going back to NPF on forming government.”
“BJP cannot go back to NPF because we cannot betray the mandate of the people,” Sarma asserted while substantiating that BJP and NDPP had contested elections jointly and the Prime Minister addressed a BJP-NDPP rally.
On TR Zeliang, Sarma felt that Zeliang should resign respecting democratic norms because NDPP and BJP as a people’s alliance has the majority along with alliance partners JD(U) and NPP. On being asked if Zeliang has been official notified by BJP, Sarma said, “In politics you don’t go by too many letters; politics goes on signal, and we have send enough signals to Mr. Zeliang that at this stage we cannot be friends with NPF.” Sarma felt that Zeliang should have taken cue from the fact that BJP leaders are meeting with Rio in his house and holding meetings with him.
While TR Zeliang had informed the Nagaland Governor of his decision to meet BJP leaders in Delhi, it was learnt earlier this morning that BJP leaders had refused to talk to him. Confirming the rumours, Sarma felt it would be improper for Zeliang to meet central leadership at this juncture as it would send wrong signals to the people of Nagaland. “He can meet our central leadership but after formation of government,” he said.
NPF had been optimistic about asserting its claim to alliance with BJP, given that the national party too had been reluctant to sever ties with the regional party, despite being in a pre-poll alliance with NDPP. Moreover, the NPF and NPP Manipur units had also written a letter to the BJP national president Amit Shah yesterday stating that NPF, BJP and NPP alliance should form the government in Nagaland in line with the parties’ alliance in the Manipur government.
Threats by the NPF to withdraw support from the Manipur government – NPF has four legislators – also failed to persuade BJP to shift allegiance. Sarma on Monday said that the NPF in Manipur is a different registered party, independent of Nagaland NPF, and that BJP would sort it out with the Manipur NPF on its own. “When Shurhouzelie severed ties with BJP in Nagaland it did not affect NPF in Manipur because in the NPF constitution Manipur NPF is registered as a different party,” the BJP leader informed while asserting that the BJP would continue ties with Manipur NPF. He also assured that there is no threat to Manipur government “because we have huge a huge majority.”
With the alliance in place, NDPP has been admitted to the National Democratic Alliance and also the North East Democratic Alliance, Sarma informed.
Sarma was also confident that the long protracted Naga political issue would be solved with a stable government in the state. “With Neiphiu Rio at the helm of affairs state and Prime Minister Modi in Delhi, it will become much easier because you need a stable government. Only when you have stable government you can take up such challenges,” the BJP leader said of the Naga solution. Sarma was of the view that the Naga issue could not be solved as Nagaland didn’t have a stable government in the last five years. “But now with Rio at the helm of state’s affiars and BJP solidly behind him, I think this is the time to solve the problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, talking to indianexpress.com, NPF spokesperson Achumbemo Kikon termed BJP’s decision to sever ties with his party as a “unilateral decision.” He further informed that TR Zeliang is “closely in touch with BJP leaders” and hoped that good sense will prevail.
The swearing-in ceremony of the new coalition government is expected to be held by March 8 and the BJP and NDPP leaders are optimistic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present on the occasion and address the people of Nagaland in what is expected to be a grand affair.