Mess in Dima Hasao
The game of musical chairs in the NC Hills Autonomous Council is the tural outcome of politics practised without values or even issues. Barely three months after suddenly leaving the Congress and joining the BJP, as many as 10 executive members of the council are back into the Congress fold. With this sudden turn of events in Kolkata where the dissident BJP executive members orchestrated their moves, the BJP is set to lose control over the council. The Congress is back in majority, claiming the support of at least 17 members in the 30-member council, and is understood to have already staked claim to form the new council. Mihir alias Jewel Garlosa who led the 10 executive members back into the Congress, has pointed out that since the anti-defection law is not applicable in the NC Hills Autonomous Council, the support of members of any party can be taken in forming the new council. It is ironical that former DHD-J leader Garlosa has now fallen out with his ‘military commander’ and comrade-in-arms Niranjan Hojai heading the present BJP-controlled council. The Mihir Garlosa led group has accused Hojai of being autocratic and corrupt — that as Chief Executive Member, Hojai has been taking unilateral decisions bypassing the council and misappropriating its funds. Political observers believe that tensions between Garlosa and Hojai began after the State BJP leadership plumped for Hojai to lead the council. In this context, BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has now come under a cloud for supposedly engineering the coup in October last with his ‘new mechanism’ when the saffron party wrested power in NC Hills though it had not won a single seat in the election to the 11th council in 2013. Questions are now being asked whether the Himanta Biswa camp in the BJP will take responsibility for the fiasco in Dima Hasao.
Of the total 30 executive members in the NCHAC, 28 are elected and two nomited. In the 2013 election, the Congress had bagged 10 seats while Independent candidates won in the remaining 18 seats. Six Independents later joined the Congress to give the party majority in forming the council, with three more Independents following suit thereafter to take the Congress strength in the council to 19. The BJP first got a foothold in April 2014 after Independent member Subrata Thaosen joined the party, to be followed by six other Independents. So when in October last year, 11 Congress and Independent members joined the BJP, its strength went up to 18. With the numbers game suddenly going against the Congress, the Debojit Thaosen-led dispensation quit without facing the trust vote. Of the 10 BJP dissidents who have now re-joined the Congress, eight had won the 2013 elections as Independents. The Dilip Nunisa led DHD and Garlosa-Hojai led DHD(J) were among the various parties and outfits which supported the Independents; the fact that as many as six former DHD(J) members won the elections proved their clout in no uncertain terms. Of late, there has been much discontent among former DHD cadres and other rebels over delay in implementation of the Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed with the Central and State governments in 2012 relating to withdrawal of cases and rehabilitation of ex-rebels, enhanced autonomy for NCHAC and a special development package. So implicit in the general lack of development in Dima Hasao is the festering problem of what to do with former militant cadres on the ground. Political rehabilitation of a few high-profile ex-rebels is not going to solve the problem, even as they now begin quarrelling over the loaves and fishes of office. Despite power being generated in Dima Hasao hills, its people get little electricity to light up their homes while the NCHAC receives no power revenue. Many NCHAC employees have not been paid their salaries for months. Lack of sufficient funds for the council and absence of a sound mechanism to prevent fund leakage and misuse will continue to be the bugbear of the new Congress-led dispensation which will take charge of the council in the coming days.