Factionalism in Nagaland politics took a new turn on Wednesday after dissident Naga People’s Front (NPF) legislator T R Zeliang was sworn in as Chief Minister as Shurhozelie Liezietsu failed to turn up for a floor test in the Assembly. Zeliang, who claimed support of 47 legislators belonging to the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) — 43 from NPF and four from BJP — and seven Independents, was sworn in at the Kohima Raj Bhavan by Governor P B Acharya. Zeliang has been asked to prove his majority by July 22.
Within hours, the NPF expelled Zeliang for six years. Two working presidents of NPF, Huskha Yepthomi and Apong Pongener, justified the expulsion, saying that Zeliang was allegedly trying to destabilise the DAN government by demanding Liezietsu’s resignation, staking claim to form a government and defying the party’s reconciliation call. The expulsion of Zeliang had become inevitable “to keep peace in the party”, the expulsion order said.
However, the stand of Zeliang’s camp on his expulsion was not immediately known. Earlier in the day, as Liezietsu did not turn up for a floor test in the special session of the state assembly, Governor Acharya issued an order dismissing him as the CM and appointed Zeliang as the new chief minister. Zeliang, who had earlier become the CM in the wake of his predecessor Neiphiu Rio getting elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014, was compelled to resign in February after things spiralled out of control over violent protests against his government for conducting elections to urban local bodies with 33 per cent reservation for women.
While NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu had taken over as the CM in February, Zeliang took only four months to whip up support of a majority of the DAN legislators in order to stake claim to take over as the chief minister. As Governor Acharya asked Liezietsu to prove his strength twice in the past one week, the latter first got a three-day stay from the Gauhati High Court, and then failed to show up when a special state assembly session was summoned on Wednesday, prompting the Governor to dismiss him.
Governor Acharya, in a letter issued to Liezietsu soon after the Assembly session (that was adjourned after his no-show) informed him about the dismissal of his government for his failure to seek a vote of confidence in the House. In yet another letter addressed to Liezietsu, he also informed him that he (the governor) had withdrawn “his pleasure to the Cabinet headed by you (Liezietsu) with immediate effect” because “it is clear that you have failed to obtain vote of confidence despite repeated opportunities given for the same.