Monday, May 11, 2015

Another Congress-mukt state?

Events last week from Nagaland deserve to be given the title of the most audacious political maneuver in recent history in any Indian state. Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang, who (on paper) had a thumping majority of 52 members in the 60-member Assembly, with his party the NPF controlling 44 and alliance partner BJP controlling 8. However, ever since his predecessor Neiphu Rio contested and won his Lok Sabha seat in 2014, things haven't been as planned.

What really changed everything, not just in Nagaland but also in other states, was the BJP's surprising majority of 282 in the Lok Sabha, not just defeating the opposition UPA parties but also repelling any and all blackmail and horse-trading from allies. In effect, the BJP and in particular, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defeated everyone, even their own allies. Thus, Rio's dreams of blackmailing his way into the Union Cabinet fell apart. It's not his fault - Narendra Modi was always a difficult person to work with and all allies were banking on using his charisma to win seats but then stopping him from becoming PM, to be replaced by a nice, Manmohan Singh-like figure. The BJP's single-party majority crushed all such hopes, and the Cabinet could be formed from merit, for once.

As dreams fell however, Rio's ambitions in Dimapur came back to haunt his successor, Zeliang. It is no secret that Zeliang only had the backing of 16 or so NPF MLAs, and the BJP could go either way, so he needed something big to stay CM. And that's what he got, when he engineered a defection from the Congress and took all 8 of its MLAs aboard. Almost instantaneously, the central leadership of the Congress suspended those MLAs, but because the entire block defected, they do not lose their seats.

The pro-Congress #Presstitutes are trying to put a spin to it by saying that the CM inducted the entire Opposition. That is not true - the BJP was never in Opposition, it was and has been for many years in government as the junior partner in the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN). Even now, the BJP MLAs remain loyal to their party and only recently did party president Amit Shah pay them a visit. The only party to have lost everything was the Congress - Nagaland is now the third state in the Union to have absolutely no Congress MLAs (the others being Delhi and Andhra Pradesh). If Rio thought Zeliang was a lightweight, he was sorely mistaken. The pupil has overtaken the master by leaps and bounds.

That said, the state government is not the only holder of power in the state, where the NSCN(IM) and other groups run a parallel administration. Naga civil society and the Church have been voicing dissent against these violent groups recently. And therein lies the challenge for the CM who has no opposition to deal with in the Assembly, but plenty outside of it.

Correction: Nagaland is actually the fourth state with no Congress MLAs. Sikkim has no Congress or BJP MLAs. 

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