We have aligned with BJP to protect Christianity: Rio

DIMAPUR: Neiphiu Rio, one of contemporary Nagaland’s tallest politicians and founder-president of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), has strongly defended BJP, his party’s electoral ally, by describing it as a party not based on any religion. This comes days after the Church accused Hindutva forces of invading the Christian-majority state.

Rio, who is the CM candidate of the NDPP-BJP alliance, told TOI, “BJP is not a religious party. It has only one agenda – development. As allies, we are confident of getting an absolute majority in the coming election.”

The 67-year-old politician, a devout Christian, added, “I feel the Church was merely expressing its apprehensions about the spread of Hindutva forces in the Christian-majority state. It has every right to caution members of the community.”

Confident of an NDPP-BJP victory, Rio, who has already won the prestigious Northern Angami-II seat unopposed, said, “We are on the right course to victory. The first assignment of the new government will be to bring to the fore all corruption cases involving the present government.”

On whether the electorate would abide by the Church’s command, Rio, who belongs to the dominant Angami tribe, said, “People should not worry about their religion and identity. We have aligned with BJP, not to join it, but to protect the Naga identity and Christianity.” He added, “There will be no compromise on the issue of our religion, which is protected by the Constitution. The Church’s complaint about Hindutva is a different matter altogether.”

Rio, who first has been representing Northern Angami-II seat since 1989, said, “We promise to bring about a change for the better. We will provide a stable government and good governance.”

Critical of the TR Zeliang government, he added, “The National Investigation Agency has summoned three officials of the chief minister’s office for allegedly siphoning of government funds to terrorist organizations. The writing on the wall is clear.”

Rio, who recently broke away from the ruling Naga People’s Front to form NDPP, said, “There are so many things about the NPF leadership…how they betrayed, how they told lies. I left the party because it decided that TR Zeliang would be its leader and the party’s face in the election. It is I who built the party and I have nothing against it.”

 He added, “I have come out against the party leadership. The people are supporting me and I trust my people. Everything will be all right.”
Rio said even BJP does not trust NPF any longer. “NPF and BJP were in an alliance for 15 years under my leadership. Now, BJP doesn’t trust the present government. BJP has chosen me to lead the alliance because it has confidence in me. It respects the Nagas and their religion.”

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