TODAY -

Forum of Ex-parliamentarians in Nagaland is anti-Rio but not against BJP
Source: Nirendra Dev *

New Delhi, August 05 2022: Twenty one (21) 'defeated' NDPP candidates of 2018 elections in Nagaland may spring a surprise The next big debate in Nagaland these days is - Will the 'problem of plenty' make a difference for Neiphiu Rio? .

It's the season of political matchmaking and hence the coming weeks will offer many surprises in Nagaland politics.

State goes to the polls in February-March 2023 .

The Forum of former lawmakers that was instrumental behind Congress nominee K L Chishi's immense success during Lok Sabha polls in 2019 would be meeting in Dimapur on Thursday, August 4, and will draw out plans vis-a-vis fast approaching election season.

“We may decide to work out a formula with as many as 21 NDPP candidates who lost the 2018 polls.

They are definitely not happy with the defectors from their respective seats being embraced and offered red carpet welcome.

They are now very keen to look for fresh and good options,” a Forum insider said.

"We are not against the BJP......At this juncture especially in the context of working for peace and solution to end the insurgency and political issue, Nagas need to be friendly to the ruling party in Delhi," said a key leader of the Forum.

There is truly a problem of plenty for Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP as the 21 NPF legislators two months back defected and joined the party.

Naturally, the 21 NDPP candidates in some of the key segments are displeased with the manner the turncoats have been 'honoured and accommodated' .

Unlike NPF which despite having enough reasons to be 'displeased' with the NDPP is still talking about another 'opposition-less' government post 2023 battle, the Forum of ex MPs and legislators is all set to emerge as a viable alternative to Rio's leadership.

The development is set to cause immense chaos in Nagaland BJP whose cadres are still unhappy with the manner the July 26 'surrender deal' was planned and executed by a leader from Assam (Himanta Biswa Sarma) .

The former lawmakers’ Forum says it does not want to disturb BJP’s 20:40 seat share formula with the NDPP too but explains carefully – “We want to draw out plans where we can provide more winnable candidates and participate actively in campaigning and drawing a mass level support” .

As it is the NDPP headed by Chief Minister Rio as of now has support of 44 MLAs of his own party but four of them would be denied tickets as the ruling party has pledged to contest only 40 seats and leave 20 for the BJP.

Between 2018 and now, legislators elected from JD(U) G.Kaito and NPP MLA L.Khumo have joined NDPP.

While Kaito is Agriculture Minister, L Khumo Khiamniungan is now an Advisor.

The state Housing Minister Tongpang Ozüküm also figures in this club as he had won as an Independent candidate from politically sensitive Angetyongpang Assembly constituency and had defeated Rio’s trusted colleague Alemtemshi Jamir.

The former IAS officer Alemtemshi could be now an NDPP candidate from Mongoya where too he lost by a narrow margin in 2018 .

“As of now, our formula is based on hardcore political commitment and all out efforts would be made to resolve the Naga issue and bring a purposeful end to the long negotiations,” another source in the Forum said.

“The Forum is not for power games.

Let there be good and alternative leadership to the present one led by Neiphiu Rio; but for an effective drawing of roadmap with JD(U) or the BJP, one senior member of the Forum should get organisational role for party presidentship," the source explained.

The idea is that the Forum’s principles and ideologies ought to be reflected in the political manifesto and other programmes.

“If the BJP or the JD-U do not want to disturb the equilibrium, our Form leader(s) should get chairmanship and other key roles in the campaign committee,” said a Forum insider.

The ex-parliamentarians say they do not want to derail the peace process.

"If negotiating parties, that is the militant groups and the Government of India, wants to go ahead with a Solution to bring peace before August 15, we will first insist that it should happen and we will be the happiest lot,” said another leader.

He, however, insisted "Talks should be purposeful and not merely cosmetic.

But we are against negotiations which are not making any progress since 2019″ .

Keeping the negotiations on but not arriving at any solution had led to an increase in extortion from the civilian population.

The Naga guerrilla groups have argued in public that such extortion is legitimate taxation.

A former Minister and strategist for the Forum said – “The present NDPP-led coalition dispensation has failed to deliver peace and solution.

It is a known fact" .

The reference is to the bitter fact that the NSCN-IM and central government's peace talks remain stalled due to the twin demands of Flag and a separate Naga constitution.

Another leader in the Forum said - "The present NDPP-led coalition dispensation has failed to deliver peace and solution.

It is a known fact.

Perhaps the ruling elites have tried to hoodwink the central BJP leadership with another set of promises.

BJP has given one more opportunity to the NDPP" .

The Forum does not mind that, he said adding - "We have therefore tried to caution the BJP to be careful.

But if a solution comes before August 15, 2022 we are all for it and the Forum leaders will be the happiest of all" .

The Forum - as of now - can have 'a unique political adjustment and draw our shared political strategy' essentially with three parties - the BJP and (or) two other saffron partners at the national level - the JD(U) and NPP led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

"So, this so-called seat adjustment alliance between BJP and NDPP (20:40) does not bother us.

We are for a bigger cause," says a key strategist in the group.

"We have to get rid of a regime that has failed people on several fronts....There is nothing personal about it.

But after 20 years of being in power and Chief Minister for 18 years, it is time for Neiphiu Rio to redraw the map of his political journey," he remarked.

"I think, Rio should take the message sportingly," said one former minister adding, "we will also broad base the Forum by encouraging more women and sitting MLAs, retired bureaucrats, Ministers and intellectuals to join us if they want to follow our ideologies and principles" .

* The sender of this news can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com .


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