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Naga peace talks : Pandey the new born politician

Bula Devi *

>Naga peace talks : Pandey the new born politician
RS Pandey :: Pix Courtesy The Hindu



Neither the Central Government nor the NSCN (I-M) will perhaps fret over the fact that the talks between the two have been put into cold storage because of the resignation of Raghaw Sharan Pandey, the interlocutor for the talks.

The perception in Government circles is that Pandey's decision to join politics will stall any meaningful peace talks at least till a new Government is installed after the Lok Sabha elections in May next year.

But, what has upset babus in North Block, where the Ministry of Home Affairs is housed, is that they learnt of Pandey's desire to change his vocation and turn a neta through the media.

The first indication came a month or two back. A local newspaper in Bihar, Pandey's home State, reported that the interlocutor's supporters were urging voters at a public rally to come out in his support. The newspaper report was brought to the notice of senior Government officials.

The confirmation of Pandey's intentions, if any was required, came when some other officials saw Pandey being garlanded at a public meeting in the presence of BJP president Rajnath Singh on a National news channel.

While all this was happening and Pandey was making his intentions clear of trading his formals for the white flannels, his employers in the Ministry of Home Affairs were in the dark.

Even when they came to know of it, they could do little by way of looking for a replacement as the man himself hadn't uttered a word officially. Pandey eventually resigned as the interlocutor on December 16 and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Pandey himself has no regrets over his decision to join the political bandwagon. After serving as an administrator for decades, he said his heart was always in serving the people, and the best way to do that was joining politics. "I have done a lot of social work like organising eye camps, helping the poor and so on," he asserted.

The demands of social work and that of being the interlocutor for the Naga peace talks became too much for him to handle. "Speaking to all the stakeholders, that is Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, was taking all my time," Pandey said. The choice was between politics and remaining an administrator. He chose the former. "I sent my resignation letter on Monday to the Government. After processing it, the matter will be put before the Prime Minister," he said.

Pandey has been harbouring a desire to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bihar's Valmiki Nagar Parliamentary Constituency, where his hometown is. "I have worked only in Valmiki Nagar, I cannot go anywhere else," Pandey said, indicating that he has been nurturing this seat for some time now.

So from babu to neta, it's been a long journey. An Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1972 batch, his association with the Northeast is not new as he was a Nagaland cadre IAS officer. Pandey retired as the Union Petroleum Secretary in January 2010. The very next month, the Government appointed him as the interlocutor for the Naga talks, succeeding K Padmanabhaiah.

The feeling in Government circles is that finding a replacement for Pandey will not be difficult as there are only a handful of bureaucrats who are well-versed with the Northeast. However with 2014 Lok Sabha elections just round the corner, it won't be surprising if the Manmohan Singh Government drags its feet and waits for the new Government to take a call.

Until then a stopgap arrangement is a possibility. But will the NSCN (I-M) leaders be willing to hold talks with him ? Unlikely ! With Pandey joining the BJP, the pro-NSCN lobby has predictably concluded that he was a "plant" of the party.




* Bula Devi wrote this article for The Sangai Express. The writer is currently working as Web Editor of a Delhi based Think Tank, Centre for Policy Analysis and specialize on conflict areas such as Kashmir and the North East.
This article was posted on December 21, 2013.



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