The Congress in poll-bound Nagaland has a major worry—whether or not to apply the Gujarat experiment vis-à-vis NDA rebels who helped oust the Neiphiu Rio government.
Rebels from the regional Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) had earlier this month helped the Congress triggered the fall of the Neiphiu Rio’s Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, which was a constituent of the BJP-led NDA. The ouster, however, has multiplied the Congress’ “accommodation” problem.
State Congress leaders are wary of a Gujarat-like scenario, where the party lost by relying on rebels from the BJP. And if it does accommodate the 17 rebels, most of them from NPF, it stands to rub aspirants within the party the wrong way.
State Congress president Hokhetu Sumi has apparently “found a way out” by labeling the rebels as “returnees”, for they “are essentially Congressmen” who had been “brainwashed” by Rio into defecting to the NPF prior to the last Assembly election.
According to senior Congress leader I Imkong, who is the party’s chief minister candidate, the issue would be sorted out during a two-day screening committee meeting beginning Wednesday. “There are absolutely no differences in the party over selection of candidates. Winnability of a candidate would be the prime criterion for ticket, whether he or she has been a party loyalist or a returnee,” he told HT from Kohima.
A senior leader, however, said seven of the 17 rebels are a certainty with five having already been cleared by the PCC. They include former finance minister K Thrie and former PWD minister Z Obed. “The fate of the remaining 10 would b decided in the meeting before the list of candidates is finalized,” he said, refusing to be quoted.
Notably, President’s Rule was imposed in Nagaland on January 4 following a controversial no-confidence vote that the Rio government won 23-19. However, the Congress claimed to have won it by 31 votes in the 60-member House whose strength had been reduced to 55 following resignations by some MLAs.