Post Election Analysis
After weeks of confusion related to the stand of the CCNTHCO (Coordination Committee of Nagaland tribe hoho and civil organizations) on “Solution before Election,” the Naga election stalemate finally ended with Naga Peoples’ Front filing the first nomination on the 6th February 2018, the penultimate day of nomination. Against all expectations, the BJP emerged as the biggest gainer of the 27 February 2018 general election when results were finally declared on the 3rd March. From 1 seat in 2013, the BJP graph jumped to 12 MLAs, and with its ally the Naga Democratic Peoples’ Party securing 18 seats- as per the initial count- the hurriedly named PDA (People’s Democratic Alliance) was invited byn the Governor PB Acharya to form the next government. However, not everything was smooth sailing for the PDA government formation. With the incumbent NPF government being in power for the last 3 terms, Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang was confident of retaining power for a record 4th term. While the NPF managed to secure 27 seats (initial count report), its pre-poll alliance partners, the NPP and the JD (U) managed to open their accounts with two and one seat respectively. The only one independent MLA had also apparently pledged his support to Zeliang accounting for a total 31 seats. However, true to the adage that principled politics have no place in Nagaland, the 3rd of March and thereafter witnessed much drama and horse-trading.
After addressing a press conference in Tripura to celebrate the BJP’s thumping victory there on the 3rd March, the BJP National Secretary in-charge of North-East was forced to fly to Nagaland the same day to trouble –shoot post election government formation. Within hours Whatsapp picture of a beaming Ram Madhav with the Independent MLA started circulating along with the latter’s letter of support. Soon the NPF’s pre-poll alliance partners too pledged their post-poll support to BJP and the PDA government under the Chief Ministership of now four times CM, Mr. Neiphiu Rio. By midnight it was clear that there was a counting mistake and the NPF number had come down to 26 MLAs and the NDPP to 19.
Amidst the drama of shifting alliances, T. R. Zeliang refused to step down from the Chief Ministership and not without reason. While the NPF party had much noise about BJP being an anti-Christian party in the run-up to the election, the BJP did not withdraw from the government nor did Zeliang drop the 4 BJP Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. Hectic parleys between the BJP and the NPF followed with reports suggesting that Zeliang flew to Guwahati to meet the BJP strongman Himanta Biswa Sharma and Kiren Rejiju, MoS for Home. With the BJP refusing to break its pre-poll alliance with Neiphiu Rio led NDPP, the NPF Manipur was roped in, as a last ditch measure, to pressure the National BJP to support Zeliang-led NPF. It may be mentioned that the Biren Singh BJP government of Manipur is being propped up by 4 NPF MLAs, along with 4 NPP members.
Finally, the Governor was forced to issue a statement that Zeliang would be removed if he did not relinquish the post. Faced with an unrelenting BJP, Zeliang finally resigned on the 6th March, and Rio sworn in on the 8th March.
Barely a 3 days later, portfolio discontentment starting brewing with reportedly 8 BJP MLAs making an attempt to break away from the party. After the SC ruling disallowing Parliamentary Secretaries, Rio was in a bind with regard to portfolio distribution, and on the 11th March, the 8 discontented MLAs were reportedly holed up in Hotel Saramati, Dimapur, charting their next course of action. The National BJP swung into action. T. R. Zeliang was alleged to have been warned not to accommodate the rebel MLAs. Interestingly, allegation of NIA being used as a political tool surfaced. According to Azeu N. Hau, press secretary of NPF Legislature Party leader (Mr. Zeliang), it was on the same night, 12.15 am that the NIA sent a fax message to T.R. Zeliang asking him to appear before the NIA office at Delhi on the 13th March. The NPF also gave a press release stating that the NIA was being used as a “proverbial Political axe.” While the new government formation did not materialize as the 8 MLAs reportedly dropped their move, grapevine has it that not only is T.R. Zeliang in a bind by the NIA action, it is also speculated that because of the NIA maneuver the BJP government of Manipur is also safe. According to local media, the NIA handle is also a leverage to make Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio toe the BJP line.
Whatever the political uncertainty, one thing is for sure that the next 5 years will witness lots of political drama. Already the talk is of Nagaland having a new political dispensation incase the BJP fails to come back in 2019 LS election.