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Neiphiu Rio, his rival TR Zeliang stake claim to form govt in Nagaland

On Sunday morning, the governor said NDPP leader Rio, who claimed the support of 32 MLAs, had the majority and should form the government.

Nagaland Election 2018 Updated: Mar 04, 2018 23:45 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party,Nagaland,Neiphiu Rio
Neiphiu Rio is a three-time chief minister and an ally of the BJP.(HT File Photo)

The political situation in Nagaland remained fluid as Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio and outgoing chief minister TR Zeliang of the NPF staked claim separately on Sunday to form the government, saying they have the requisite number of legislators in the 60-member assembly.

State governor PB Acharya gave both leaders 48 hours to submit the signatures of the MLAs supporting them. The assembly polls in February threw up a hung verdict, with no party getting the majority when the results were declared on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, the governor said NDPP leader Rio, who claimed the support of 32 MLAs, had the majority and should form the government. Rio is a three-time chief minister and an ally of the BJP.

He told reporters later that Rio and Zeliang have both claimed to have majority support, so “I have not invited anyone to form the government as of now ... I have given them 48 hours”.

“As the constitutional head, my duty is to see who has the majority and call him to form the new government. Whoever brings the signatures of more than 30 elected members I will accept,” he said.

Acharya said Rio submitted a list of 30 NDPP-BJP MLAs and also the letters of support from a JD(U) and an Independent legislator taking the tally to 32.

The NDPP, a party founded in 2017, won 18 seats in results declared on Saturday, its ally the BJP has 12, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) got 26, the National People’s Party won two, while one seat apiece went to the Janata Dal (United) and an Independent.

Elections were held for 59 seats as NDPP leader Rio was elected unopposed from North Angami II constituency.

The NDPP-BJP alliance, forged before the elections, managed to unseat the regional NPF, which is again an ally of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre.

The new alliance secured 30 seats, including that of Rio, and claims to have the support of the lone JD(U) lawmaker G Kaito Aye and Independent legislator Tongpang Ozukum.

Zeliang has expressed hope of gaining the support of the BJP to form the government, the governor said. Efforts to reach Zeliang for comments were unsuccessful.

Governor Acharya said: “I was thinking that Zeliang will come and put his resignation but he still thinks he can form the government and he has the majority.”

Zeliang apparently submitted a list of 26 NPF MLAs, two NPP and one JD(U) legislator. Acharya said he told him about the JD(U) legislator supporting Rio in the morning.

Rio, an Angami Naga, is a bitter rival of Zeliang, though both were with the NPF. The 67-year-old Rio quit state politics in 2014, became an MP and set out for Delhi.

According to Kevi Letuo, the former chief of the Naga Hoho community association, Rio decided to go to Delhi to strengthen the Naga peace talks.

It was speculated that Rio was promised a cabinet berth in the Union government, but that did not happen because of the infighting within the NPF. The party witnessed a bitter tussle for power in the past two years among Zeliang, former chief minister and party chairman Shurhozelie Liezietsu and Rio.

“The decision to go to Delhi proved to be a misadventure and he has been trying to come back to the state,” said Moa Jamir, the editor of Morung Express, a Nagaland newspaper.

His decision to form the next government with the BJP is seen as his second coming to Nagaland politics after the NPF suspended him in 2015 and again in 2017, apparently in a bid to keep him occupied in Delhi.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 23:44 IST