The ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) ended all speculations on Monday by choosing Naga People’s Front (NPF) president Shurhozelie Liezietsu as the next chief minister of Nagaland.
The 81-year-old Liezietsu will replace TR Zeliang, who quit on Sunday after pressure from tribal organisations for deciding to hold civic body polls with 33% quota for women.
NPF is the major constituent of DAN with 48 legislators in the 60-member Nagaland assembly that has no opposition. The other MLAs – eight independents and four of BJP – are in the alliance.
Former chief minister and Nagaland’s sole Lok Sabha member Neiphiu Rio, who had tried to topple Zeliang in 2015, was said to be a front-runner for the CM’s post.
His camp had allegedly herded more than 40 MLAs to a couple of resorts in Kaziranga on Friday night. Rio too reached one of the resorts after returning to Nagaland’s Dimapur town from Delhi on Saturday.
The MLAs made their way back to Kohima on Sunday when it became clear Zeliang was resigning in the “bigger interest of the state”.
An NPF leader said the scales tipped in Liezietsu’s favour during an emergency meeting of the NPF Legislature Party followed by the DAN Legislature Party meeting on Monday. Rio had to be kept out because of a technical problem; NPF had last year suspended him indefinitely for anti-party activities.
A party leader said 58 MLAs signed in favour of Liezietsu.
“Nagaland at this juncture needs to be guided by an experienced leader like Liezietsu,” Nagaland’s Rajya Sabha member KG Kenye said. Kenye had suggested Liezietsu should take over the reins from Zeliang to assuage the NGOs on warpath for almost two months.
The NGOs had last week asked the NPF legislators to either ensure Zeliang’s ouster or face boycott when the next assembly election is held in 2018.
Son may give up seat for father
Regarded as a scholar, Liezietsu will have to seek re-election within six months of taking charge as Nagaland’s 11th chief minister.
After retaining his Northern Angami-I assembly seat in 2008, Liezietsu decided not to contest the 2013 polls and let his son Khriehu contest instead. Khriehu was later made the parliamentary secretary of youth resources and sports, Music Task Force and state lottery.
Khriehu, 51, might give up the Northern Angami-I to let his father be re-elected.
The senior Liezietsu was first elected to the Nagaland assembly in 2003 and went on to be the minister of urban development. Higher and technical education was added to his portfolio after he won the 2008 election.
Liezietsu is expected to meet governor PB Acharya soon for the formality.