Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Tailoring alliances

An interesting stage appears to have been reached at a time when Nagaland is scheduled to go to the polls either end of February or beginning of March 2023 precipitated by the recent exodus or merger of defection of 21 out of 25 NPF legislators on April 29. The 21 NPF legislators headed to the NDPP, its rival offshoot co-founded by chief minister Neiphiu Rio,( a former senior Congress minister) who co-founded the NPF way back in late 2002 with long time colleague K.Therie (now back with the Congress). The NPF had won 26 seats in 2018 while the nascent NDPP won 18 and BJP won 12 with NPP 2, JDU and independent one each. NDPP swallowed two NPP legislators and then the lone JDU legislator to climb to 21 MLAs. Five sitting MLAs of the current 13th NLA also passed away. In the subsequent five by elections, the NDPP won four and an independent one. NDPP retained Aonglenden, Southern Angami-I, Shamator-Chessore and Noksen while an Independent won the Pungro-Kiphire, a seat earlier held by Torechu of NPF, whose death necessitated the byelection. The exodus of 21 NPF legislators, unlike ‘mergers’ was not preceded by a ‘split’. The 21 NPF legislators submitted individual letters to the speaker of the assembly informing about their decision to merge with NDPP. In the subsequent press briefing, the NDPP spokesperson claimed that all the 21 MLAs had joined the NDPP in order to strengthen the hands of chief minister Neiphiu Rio and his government to facilitate and expedite the “peace process”. During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, seven rebel NPF legislators went against the decision of the party to back the Congress and openly backed the NDPP candidate of the ruling PDA. A rebel NPF legislator had justified this on the ground that supporting the Congress went against regionalism. The seven, among the 21 who joined NDPP, have contradicted their pro-regionalism stand in 2019 by leaving a regional party and now, their stand is being questioned. Pro-regionalism cuts little ice in contemporary Nagaland politics as regional parties –NPF and NDPP-despite whatever claims, see nothing wrong in having an opportunistic alliance for power with BJP. The elected have also used Naga political issue; not because of any genuine concern but solely to camouflage their ambitions and failure on various fronts. The reverse homecoming of the 21 MLAs has also added strain to the NDPP-BJP alliance despite both reaffirming continuance with the alliance and seat sharing formula of 40(NDDP and 20(BJP) for 2023. After the recent exodus, NDPP doubled its tally to 42 and if two independents are added, NDPP can claim a total of 44 MLAs. This has made BJP wary since it would be confronted with having to readjust from its share of 20 seats. BJP has many intending candidates knocking on its door for 2023. This has made the party more confident about making a big splash in 2023 and certainly not in a mood to accept anything less. The coming days and weeks will prove whether BJP will follow the old saying – in politics there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends, only permanent interests.

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