Ending all speculations, both TR Zeliang and Neuphio Rio have lost the race for power as the Naga People’s Front Legislature Party's president Shurhozelie Liezietsu has been chosen as leader and the next Chief Minister (CM), who took the oath on Wednesday, February 22.
Since the TR Zeliang-led state government's approval of the reservation of 33% Urban Local Body (ULB) poll seats for women, politics in the Northeast Indian state of Nagaland has taken new twists and turns.
This decision by TR Zeliang has cost him dearly as he resigned from his post under pressure mounted by local tribal bodies, as well as his own legislators. The fundamental reason behind this is love for traditions, customs, cultures and standards by the Nagas as is their wont.
Through the ages, Nagas have been sensitive to any infringement on their customary practices by outsiders. This was perhaps understood by India’s Constitution makers, as they have incorporated Article 371 A in the Constitution which bars anybody from interfering in the customary laws of the Nagas. The participation of women in Nagaland’s political sphere is strictly prohibited, which explains the absence of female legislators and parliamentarians in the state with the sole exception of Rano M Shaiza. Naturally, Zeliang’s move to relax the bonds of traditions imposed by the Naga society has greatly incensed the overlords.
The tribal bodies of Nagaland have vehemently lodged a protest against Zeliang. They initially demanded postponement of the ULB polls. The CM struck a deal with a local tribal body spearheading the anti-reservation movement on Jan 30, 2017.
However, on the following day, the Guwahati High Court passed an order, permitting the CM to go ahead with the polls.
Meanwhile, the situation came to a head as police shot at protesters in Dimapur, which claimed the lives of two youths.
This angered everyone. They began to vociferously demand his resignation. The Nagaland CM remained firm in his position, but had to back down when 48 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) decided to withdraw their support and switched loyalties to his competitor, Neuphio Rio.
Veteran journalist of Nagaland, Monalisa Chankija said: “Neuphio Rio was the former Chief Minister of Nagaland, but was expelled by his party in 2014. He wants to regain his control over state politics. The MLAs definitely have some vested interests. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have switched sides.” “Chief Ministers of a state invariably change sometime or the other. However, the hijacking of the participation of women in the ULB polls as per reservations is most unfortunate,” she added.
As two swords won’t fit into a single scabbard, two topmost leaders of Naga People’s Front, T R Zeliang and Neuphio Rio have failed to get along with each other.
Lust for the seat of power has invited troubles for Nagaland.
These political events have attained significance as Nagaland will go for Legislative Assembly polls along with Tripura and Meghalaya on Feb-Mar 2018. The Bharatiya Janata Party Government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to capture these Northeastern states earnestly along with Manipur, where polls will be held next month.
Shilajit Kar Bhowmik