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Upheaval in NPF

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 July 2017 12:00 AM GMT

The ruling ga People’s Front (NPF) is in a piquant situation, virtually split wide open the Zeliang vs Liezietsu tussle for the CM’s chair, yet unwilling to admit that it is a divided house. As of now, TR Zeliang is firmly back in saddle as chief minister, having won the trust vote on Friday by 47 votes to 11 in the 60-member House that has an effective strength of 59. The MLAs who voted for Zeliang included 36 from his party NPF, 4 from the BJP and 7 Independents. However, the NPF had earlier expelled Zeliang before he could move the confidence motion, so he is at present a CM without party. Meanwhile, NPF president and dethroned CM Shurhozelie Liezietsu, presently not an MLA, may make it to the House if he wins the upcoming by-election for the Northern Angami-I seat on July 29. In fact, this by-election likely has much to do with the present turmoil in galand politics, after the state cabinet had on May 26 last asked him to contest the poll, a decision supported by the NPF central executive. However, 80-year old Liezietsu, pulled out of political retirement to head the NPF government in February this year — had been widely expected to keep the CM’s chair warm for Zeliang, who had been forced to step down after widespread violence by tribal groups over his decision to reserve 33 percent seats for women in local bodies. So did Zeliang suspect Liezietsu would become hard to dislodge in case he mages to win the July 29 by-election? Be as it may, the dissidence against Liezietsu that Zeliang spearheaded early this month was centred primarily on the appointment of Liezietsu’s son and sitting MLA of Northern Angami-I seat Khriehu Liezietsu, as the CM’s Adviser with cabinet minister rank, status and pay. Widely seen as a reward by Liezietsu Senior to his son for sacrificing his seat, the Zeliang camp took advantage by promptly dubbing it a case of nepotism. After writing to Governor PB Acharya staking claim to form the government in galand, Zeliang kept his flock at a Kaziranga resort while Chief Minister Liezietsu sacked ministers and parliamentary secretaries for siding with the dissidents.
Such rapid moves and counter-moves have become typical of power politics in some Northeast states. Mercifully though, excesses like those that visited Aruchal Pradesh last year have been avoided in galand as of now. This may have something to do with the fact that dethroned CM Liezietsu is not a member of the House, and therefore could not put up a fight on the floor to save his government. Liezietsu had earlier moved Gauhati High Court challenging the Governor’s July 9 order to prove his majority in the House on or before July 15, but no relief was forthcoming as the HC Kohima bench left it to the “wisdom of the Governor” to take a decision after “proper application of mind”. After the Speaker informed that Liezietsu was not present to contest the trial of strength, the Governor went by the rule book to dismiss his government and swear in Zeliang. Nevertheless, questions are being asked whether the Governor was right in summoning a special session of the galand Assembly to settle what was essentially a leadership dispute within the NPF. As there was no constitutiol crisis because the dissidents had not applied for a split in the ruling party, surely some scope could have been given for the party leadership to resolve the issue, some observers have argued. In any case, galand now has a government enjoying majority support, which is a must for stability in a State under the constant threat of reignited insurgency. With NSCN(K) seeking to regroup near Chi border after the demise of SS Khaplang, courting political uncertainty in this sensitive frontier state is not a prospect the Centre can put up with. galand will also be going for assembly elections in 9 months, so there can be no point in rocking the boat now. This will put to test Chief Minister Zeliang’s political skills, honed to a fine degree since 2014 when the then NPF supremo and CM Neiphiu Rio had contested successfully for Parliament. Faced with dissidence a year later when 22 party MLAs, backed by Rio, demanded his resigtion — Zeliang had succeeded in winning over 8 Congress MLAs and forming an all-party government. It remains to be seen how he wins over supporters of Shurhozelie Liezietsu this time around, who are claiming to be the “real NPF” and going all out against the BJP.

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