LESS THAN five months after he was removed from the chief minister’s post and replaced by Shurhozelie Liezietsu, former Nagaland chief minister T R Zeliang has claimed the support of 41 MLAs of the ruling NPF-led alliance and asked Governor P B Acharya to invite him to form a new government.
Liezietsu has hit back by dismissing four of his cabinet ministers and six parliamentary secretaries who have sided with Zeliang. Liezietsu, in his capacity as president of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), has also suspended 10 legislators from the party’s primary membership. These include Home Minister Yanthungo Patton, Power Minister Kipili Sangtam, Forest Minister Imkong L Imchen and Highways and Political Affairs Minister G Kaito Aye.
Zeliang has claimed the support of 34 NPF legislators and seven Independents in a House with an effective strength of 59 (Liezietsu is not an MLA yet). He has taken all 41 legislators to a resort near Kaziranga National Park. In February, almost the same set of legislators had isolated themselves from Zeliang, and gone to a resort near Kaziranga.
Imchen said they were waiting for the Governor to send a formal invite to Zeliang to form the government. Acharya, however, is away in his home state of Maharashtra.
The crisis was brewing in the state over the past few days even as Liezietsu was preparing to file his nomination papers for the bypoll from North Angami-I to get himself elected to the assembly. The seat was vacated by sitting MLA and his son, Khriehu, two months ago.
Ten days ago, Liezietsu, the long-time NPF president, appointed Khreihu as his advisor with cabinet rank. This irked many of the legislators, with Zeliang claiming it would be difficult to face the next Assembly elections — due early next year — under a leader who had concentrated all powers, both of the government and party, in his hands.
Sensing the rebellion, Liezietsu on Saturday removed Zeliang and MLA Nuklotoshi as advisors to the chief minister. In a statement today, Liezietsu, 81, claimed that the present crisis would be resolved soon. He also asked the MLAs camping in Kaziranga to return to Kohima to sort out their grievances, and said the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government would be able to complete its full term.
This is the fourth crisis that the DAN government in Nagaland has witnessed since May 2014, when Zeliang first succeeded then chief minister Neiphiu Rio, who resigned to contest the Lok Sabha elections. Even as Rio was looking for a loyalist to hand over the baton, Zeliang managed to garner majority support.
Zeliang survived the first attempt to oust him in 2015, but failed to do so in February 2017, following a crisis precipitated by a violent agitation opposing women’s reservation in civic bodies. Liezietsu then stepped in.
The 60-member House (effective strength 59) has 47 NPF, 4 BJP and 8 Independent legislators. As all are members of the DAN, the assembly has no opposition member.