TODAY -

Credibility question: Acid test for Amit Shah and Neiphiu Rio

Nirendra Dev *



In 2023 --- Nagaland could get a pleasant surprise. After elections, NDPP may merge with the BJP. But during voting, people may still vote for 10-12 BJP MLAs and dump more than 30 NDPP candidates. This may be possible if parties such as NPF, NPP and even Congress can play their cards well. The August 5 rally could show us some indications. Are some people already nervous ?

The huge socio-political impact and the reactions so far to the announcement of the NDPP-BJP alliance so far is on expected lines. However, at least a very few must have expected a strong reaction from NNPG - which so far has constantly remained committed to an early solution.

In Nagaland the entire governance concept stands on a peculiar foundation. You need to provide good and effective governance and these are immensely linked to the Naga political issue. Little bit of mishandling could jeopardise the entire apple-cart. Over the years one major limitation has been New Delhi's 'know all' approach.

The malady continues unabated though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to pull out Delhi's Babudom from that world of gross inefficiency, mutual admiration and sycophancy. If today, a pro-Solution umbrella group, NNPG, says "personal ambition" of a few are coming before Naga people's political aspirations -- the matter is serious. It expresses no confidence in Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.

Well an elected Chief Minister has the mandate, but Mr Rio will do well to remember that in the past too such allegations (against influential leaders) have done immense harm to Nagaland. Importantly, for Chief Minister Rio and even for the centre -- if one leader is 'disliked' so strongly by one group -- chances are that people are convinced of the nexus on the other front.

"Who is NDPP Secretary General Abu Metha? He owes an explanation to the Naga people as to why, at this hour, he desires elections more than Indo-Naga political solutions. What political, historical, social and moral authority has he to attempt a pre-emptive strike on a possible Indo-Naga political solution?," says the NNPG statement.

More than Abu Metha, two other leaders should read these lines more carefully. One of them is Himanta Biswa Sarma - a converted neo-BJP leader. But he hails from the same old Congress which many people know as a symbol of corruption and gross inefficiency. Himanta's newfound love for cows and Hinduism cannot wrap this fact under the carpet.

He would do well to focus on Assam floods. BJP-NDPP alliance stitching is not a NEDA convener's job. It has to be decided either in Dimapur/Kohima or in Delhi. Moreover, now Naga leaders have raised an issue with the central BJP -- what is Himanta's contribution for Naga people staying in Assam ?

The other person is of course Abu Metha's boss and mentor Neiphiu Rio himself. The above paragraph is actually directed towards him. NNPG is today led by N Kitovi Zhimomi, a native of Ghukiye village under Satakha, - who has fought stalwarts like Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu since the 1980s. Everyone in NNPG pretty well knows the power of the saying, 'Tease the king's parrot and the king could start singing'.

On the other hand, Amit Shah has put his personal reputation at stake as PM Modi's Home Minister. If the NNPG now walks out of the peace parleys and with Rio's influence on Muivah and NSCN-IM still in doubt, we may have a typical 'Rahul Gandhi syndrome' striking the BJP and the central government. This syndrome is called turning advantages into disadvantages and merits into demerits.

If anybody is taking NNPG for granted in the peace process that could be erroneous as the umbrella group would now find it extremely difficult to sustain their 'unity'. The good works of RN Ravi should not be allowed to go in waste. The return of Rio to power in 2023 for Kitovi Zhomimi and his camp would mean continued 'patronage' of a rival entity, the NSCN-IM.

This is what has made NNPG furious. What's the strength of this 'nexus' when Rio is unable to convince the NSCN-IM to come on board for an early solution ?

I spoke to a few Naga leaders on the recent developments. Here came a loaded statement -- "Are they all in power in Kohima the stumbling block to peace and solution? The 60 legislators including Rio are facilitators. If so, what makes NNPG angry?" If all stakeholders come forward and an agreement is inked before August 15 - Shah has hit a goldmine.

For Rio, who in the 1990s harboured great dreams of a prosperous and peaceful Nagaland, is faced with multiple challenges in 2022. This - sadly - at his age after being the state's chief minister for most part of the last two decades. On July 16, Rio did a spectacular job by anchoring the meeting with a very reasonable and promising statement.

That good intent today has been marred by the July 26 statement. Of course, he needs the alliance to ensure the sustainability of NDPP. But a party made of opportunists and left overs from all other parties cannot be ideologically strong. His colleagues are with him because he is in power and in a position of patronage and ensuring them yet another round of electoral win. But do such election victories help Nagaland?

Even July 26 when Rio was hobnobbing with Himanta and Amit Shah - a few NDPP leaders were in Delhi exploring chances of switching over to the saffron party. Rio might have a few personal compulsions as well.

Time and again, this scribe has volunteered to caution political players that never underestimate the power of faceless voters. Arrogance and overconfidence beyond a point simply are not palatable to Indian electorate. NNPG has read people's pulse well and took a risk in initiating this 'revolt' against the BJP-NDPP alliance.

It's a first but very powerful non-political (not linked to elections) statement - voice of opposition to Rio's leadership. This exposes the NDPP-led 'opposition-less' government. Amit Shah must have examined all these pros and cons.

True, the future of BJP in Nagaland has been stalled. But more significantly, the alliance today has virtually threatened the peace process.

Democracy and chaos are often synonymous.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is based at New Delhi, and can be reached at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 03 2022 .



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