With the verdict barely 24 hours away, Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang exuded confidence over retaining his chair and putting a stable government in place. While his party, the Naga People’s Front, expects to reach the magic number on its own in the 60-member Nagaland Legislative Assembly, Zeliang is cautious. Seated on the lawns of his official residence in Kohima Friday morning, after a meeting with some of his senior cabinet colleagues, Zeliang predicted, “Minimum 27.” He asserted that NPF would be forming the next government with the National People’s Party (NPP) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
While NPP is in a pre-poll alliance with NPF, JD-U had declined agreeing to any alliance with NPF before the polls. Zeliang said both the parties, part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, have decided to support the NPF under his chief ministership. NPF, despite a fallout with BJP on seat-sharing before the February 27 polls, continues to be part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Zeliang said the NPF continues to have a cordial relationship with the national party but it is up to BJP to decide whether they will continue to have alliance with NPF. NPF president Dr. Shurhouzelie Liezietsu, a hardcore regionalist, has been known to be averse to BJP, but Zeliang today assured that the veteran leader would not stand in the way of a NPF-BJP coalition.
The incumbent chief minister assured a stable government which would ensure peace and development, if brought back to power. “For the last few years my adversaries did not allow me a single day of rest by creating political crisis, but I didn’t neglect my duties,” he said.
Zeliang further observed that NPF expected to do much better but before the election, many floor crossings had taken place. “Whoever didn’t get NPF ticket crossed over to other parties, so strategically there are some change. But only good people are remaining with NPF now.”
How was Election 2018 different?
“Comparatively this election was better. As far as Clean Election was concerned, it was implemented to some extent. There were some changes in general – people didn’t use alcohol, there were no feasts, and no youth camps. But people were aggressive as the election momentum picked up late with expectations of the solution coming before election.”
Do you expect a stable government?
“We can visualise that we will have a stable government. Rio as NPF MP used to come back and create problems within the NPF house. Crisis was within the house. BJP did not create any problem. If he (Rio) is in opposition we are happy. Now he has been shifted to a new party established by him, any kind of objection, allegation, we shall answer and our house will be clean. But as long as he remains with us Rio knows how to burn down his own house. We are now peaceful. And hope that we can provide stable government and development.”
What would be your priorities?
“If brought to power, we shall revamp education system, home department, and healthcare in the state. We tried, but because of instability in the government, we could not concentrate properly. Education ministers Yitachu and Tokheho tried their best.”
What about the deplorable condition of roads?
“I have been fighting with the Centre that you build the road and do not provide fund for maintenance. Roads in hill sectors need regular maintenance, especially during rains. Who will repair, we don’t have funds. But now central government is coming forward. The Dimapur-Kohima four-lane road is under construction, and they have included maintenance fund. In two-three years, roads will be ok in Nagaland, including parts of national highways maintained by the state and roads within the towns.”
Is corruption responsible for bad roads?
“People may cry out about corruption, but what is needed is a change in the system. People talk of corruption, but they should be specific about which road contractor didn’t execute work properly. Instead of levelling accusations of corruption, they should point out specific projects.”
What about Naga political issue?
“We have not received anything (details about content of framework agreement) in black and white. If they (the Centre) are serious, then the solution can happen within a few months time. If they are not serious, then it will prolong.”
Will NPF facilitate the peace process?
“We have appealed to the Centre that NSCN-K should be invited to sign ceasefire agreement and join the dialogue. I have written letters to NSCN-K collective leadership last year and early part of this year that they should continue dialogue with Myanmar government and come to a conclusion as also to sign ceasefire agreement and join dialogue so that it will be a permanent settlement and permanent peace will be brought into our land. I have not received any positive reply, but hope they will also sign the ceasefire agreement which is the desire of the people. I met the Assam chief minister and urged him to collectively support the peace effort so that entire northeast region is peaceful. Also urged that the ULFA (Paresh Baruah-led ULFA-I) also should come back and sign the ceasefire. Discussed same thing with Manipur chief minister.”
What about territorial issues with neighbour states?
“Assam and Manipur do not want their territory to be altered. We insisted on NSCN-IM and other six Naga political groups that we should go for emotional integration and social integration instead of going straight for geographical integration. I think they also understood.”