National Trend catching up: Nagaland could witness defection drama

New Delhi, : The ‘national trend’ of gradual shift towards BJP camp in various states including Goa and Karnataka either by mass defection or otherwise is likely to leave its impact in the far-flung northeast region also.
As of now the far flung north east India “understandably got priority” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the region also reposed faith in the saffron party in state polls since 2014 including in Assam and in general elections this year, but a latent rivalry has emerged now between regional parties and the saffron party.
Sources said – on the face value, things are going easy and smooth in the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), but when it comes to detailed analysis vis-a-vis reading the road map of Nagaland politics, “fierce competition” is unleashed now between the saffron outfit and its regional partner Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).
“The reasons are political. The NDPP leadership and Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio would be interested in keeping BJP weak organisationally in Nagaland so that the saffron party never gets its own Chief Minister,” said a BJP source in the state adding “this will force BJP to continue to play second fiddle to the Chief Minister Rio”.
In terms of legacy, Mr Rio enjoys good rapport with BJP both in the state and in the central level since he first assumed power in the state in 2003 and continued at a stretch till May 2014 – when he shifted to Delhi as state’s lone Lok Sabha MP.
According to sources in the saffron party, most BJP leaders in the state understand this “hidden agenda” and are thus getting restive gradually as the Lotus party has the “potential” to expand its base.
“The NDPP is a newly floated party and is organisationally weak. In 2018 assembly polls, BJP showed to the people that there is greater acceptability of the saffron party’s programmes and policies,” the source said adding “BJP contested only 20 seats out of 60 and could win 12 while our alliance partner NDPP had contested 40 and got only 18 legislators”.
The argument being as BJP has greater ‘strike rate’. “We can expand further,” a state level leader in the know of things informed to a section of BJP central leadership.
In last fortnight, several Naga leaders including state BJP leaders, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, former Chief Minister T R Zeliang (of NPF) and state deputy chief minister Y Patton met important central leaders.
However, one key source tried to downplay the political significance of these meetings saying “such interactions” do take place frequently.
“Discussions do not mean toppling games and political instability. We have a very strong partnership between Mr Rio and state BJP leaders. Such meetings are essential these days as Naga peace talk is also making fast progress,” said one leader.
Interestingly, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy has informed Lok Sabha that the Naga peace talks has reached an ‘advanced stage’.
But the political overtures have turned interesting after a section of NPF legislators have “indicated” to state BJP leaders that they are keen to join BJP and ensure a Chief Minister from the saffron party.
The NPF, which is firm about protecting its regional identity, was original partner of the BJP in Nagaland. But in May 2017, NPF split and NDPP was floated by Neiphiu Rio and other senior leaders such as Chingwang Konyak.
“The defection games have started in Goa and Karnataka. Even sitting MPs from TDP and Samajwadi Party are resigning and joining BJP. Nagaland politics is always vulnerable to the trend and disease we experience at the national level,” one former Nagaland Minister said.
There is also a latent campaign in the BJP that Mr Rio has kept “some Nagaland BJP leaders” in good humour and hence they are not showing the killer instinct to strike at Mr Rio.
“But in the greater interest of BJP’s organisational growth in Nagaland and that too when the saffron party is strong nationally, indications suggest the saffron party will find it extremely difficult to give up the idea of having a Chief Minister of its own in Christian-stronghold Nagaland,” one party leader said.
Sources say Mr Rio is also aware of the political undercurrent and has hence tried to win over MLAs from NPP and JD(U) in recent times and some of these developments have already led to legal battles.


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