RANJU DODUM | 11 JULY, 2017
GUWAHATI: A political cat-and-mouse game is currently playing out in Nagaland with the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) facing turmoil and internal rebellion that could lead to a dissolution of the state Assembly and early polls.
Nagaland chief minister, Shürhozelie Liezietsu, is trying his best to fend off an ouster attempt by his predecessor, TR Zeliang, who had to step down earlier this year after pressure from his party and civil society organisations, allegedly over the decision to allow 33 percent for women in Urban Local Bodies elections.
Liezietsu, a veteran politician and NPF chief, had taken over the reins of the top post even though he is not an MLA to lead the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland composing of the BJP which has four MLAs in the present house. His son, Khriehu Leizietsu, had resigned as MLA from Northern Angami-I constituency to make way for his father’s election to the 60-member house (currently 59).
However, before the by-election could take place on July 29, the chief minister is already facing opposition; not from his constituency but from his own party.
His predecessor, Zeliang, who served as his financial advisor, on Saturday staked claim to form the new government under the same party, stating that he had the support of 41 out of the 59 MLAs.
Zeliang said he was still the chief of the NPF’s legislature party and that 34 of the 47 NPF MLAs backed him, apart from seven Independents. He had reportedly written to that the MLAs “authorized me to stake claim before the governor to form a new NPF-led DAN government in Nagaland and urged upon the incumbent chief minister, who is a non-MLA, to resign and pave way for me to take over as the chief minister”.
The MLAs supporting him are currently holed up in a resort in Kaziranga in neighbouring Assam while Zeliang is said to be in New Delhi. The 41 MLAs had also issued a statement claiming that Dr Liezietsu had “massacred” democracy by continuing to stay on as chief minister.
While a final decision on the future rests with governor PB Acharaya, Liezietsu struck back on Sunday by sacking four ministers (including home minister Y Patton) and ten parliamentary secretaries. The NPF central leadership also suspended ten members from active and primary membership, including Zeliang.
By Sunday, it was reported that one more NPF legislator had joined Zeliang’s faction at Kaziranga camp, taking his tally to 42.
The BJP has stated that it will not interfere in the NPF’s internal matters and has not voiced its support for either of the camps.
A source in the Liezietsu camp claimed that the chief minister had invited Zeliang to take charge of the government but that he reportedly did not agree to it. This claim, however, could not be independently verified by anyone in the Zeliang camp.
Another source said that during Liezietsu’s four-month stint several “scams” were unearthed where many of the present group of dissenters are allegedly involved.
If the stalemate continues, Liezietsu could dissolve the Assembly to make way for fresh elections. The source in the Liezietsu camp said that such a development could be counterproductive to the peace dialogue that the Central government is currently holding with a faction of the Naga separatists.
Incidentally, the source further claimed that the Prime Minister may not be in favour of early Assembly elections considering the impending Presidential elections.