Factional War Takes Over Naga Peoples Front
ITANAGAR: The political scenario in Nagaland is getting murkier by the day with two factions of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) battling for supremacy within the power corridors as people took to the streets demanding accountability from the political class.
On August 25, the Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Nagaland, a civil society organisation formed in 2013, held a massive rally in Dimapur seeking the resolution of seven demands including an early solution to the Naga separatist movement.
Among its demands is the removal of “unconstitutional posts” of Advisor and Parliamentary Secretaries. It is also seeking an inquiry by a central agency to investigate allegations of corruption and siphoning of funds relating to various governmental schemes and projects.
A day before the rally however, the ACAUT had alleged that Nagaland Chief Minister, TR Zeliang, was “withholding information” relating to funds allocated and released for flagship programmes by the finance department in the financial year 2016-17.
ACAUT had sought details from the department under the RTI Act on April 6 seeking information on the matter.
However, on the day of the rally, a press statement issued by the faction of the NPF led by Lok Sabha MP and former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that ACAUT ignored laid guidelines and alleged that it had “some hidden agendas”.
It was reported that the Rio-led NPF faction accused the ACAUT of attempting to tarnish the current chief minister’s image by raising the issue after Zeliang was reinstated in July this year.
Zeliang became chief minister for the second time after he stepped down owing to public and political pressure earlier this year over the decision to allow 33 percent reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies elections. Zeliang had to make way for the veteran politician, Dr Shürhozelie Liezietsu.
However, just months Zeliang was able to engineer a coup, ousting Liezietsu, reportedly with Rio’s active support. Incidentally, Rio was also said to have been instrumental in having Zeliang removed from the chief minister’s post in the first place.
As things stand now, of the 47 MLAs of the ruling government including seven Independents and four from the BJP, 36 of them either stand expelled or suspended from the party led by Liezietsü and could face disqualification proceedings for voting against the party whip during the July 21 vote of confidence.
Outside of the government, there are 11 NPF MLAs and one Independent. The Nagaland Assembly does not effectively have any opposition legislators.
Several sources in Nagaland say that Rio is trying to squeeze his way back into the post of the chief minister- a post he held for three consecutive terms until stepping down to enter the Lok Sabha in 2014.
Rio though was not given a berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government which seemed to have left him disinterested in national politics. The protest over the Nagaland government’s decision to allow for 33 percent reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies gave Rio an opportunity to bring himself centre stage in state politics.
A source in the Liezietsü faction of the NPF said that Rio had formed the Democratic Progressive Party in May this year and is now claiming to be the president of the NPF, “the party he has been suspended from”.
For the record, Rio did not officially have any links to the Democratic Progressive Party. He was, however, ‘suspended’ from the NPF by Liezietsu’s faction for “anti-party activities” for a second time this year.
Just as he had made his re-entry to state politics, sources say that Rio is most likely attempting to reclaim his ‘throne’.