The Naga People’s Front (NPF), a long-standing NDA ally in the Northeast, on Saturday decided “in principle” to pull out its four legislators from the BJP-led Manipur government after the Lok Sabha election process gets over.
The announcement was made on Twitter by former Nagaland Chief Minister and NPF leader T R Zeliang. The move, according to Congress leaders in Manipur, could give the party a chance to stake claim to form the government.
Zeliang, Leader of Opposition in Nagaland Assembly, tweeted: “After an intense deliberation and review meeting with party functionaries and NPF MLAs of Manipur, the NPF has decided in principle to pull out our 4 NPF MLAs from the BJP led Govt. in Manipur headed by N Biren Singh soon after LS election is completed.”
He stated that the decision was necessitated by the BJP’s “indifferent attitude”. “Further implementation of this decision will be finalised after the election process,” he posted.
The BJP played down the development. Commenting on Zeliang’s tweet and other reports of the alliance on the verge of breaking, BJP leader and Manipur minister Thongam Biswajit Singh told The Sunday Express, “We have not received any official letter from NPF regarding this. They are playing politics. We have 40 MLAs, (so) even if NPF walks out, the government will be stable with 36 MLAs.”
NPF Rajya Sabha member K G Kenya told The Sunday Express that the party leadership has been ruminating over the decision for some time now. “This decision has been taken today but will be implemented after May 23. We severed ties with BJP in 2018. The Manipur state unit had also been given instructions to consider pulling out last year. But (since) our MLAs had resigned once before, when the Congress-led government had passed some anti-tribal laws, we did not push this demand aggressively with our Manipur unit. We left the decision to them.”
The Congress now sees an opportunity to stake claim if the alliance breaks, and party leaders claimed that seven of the eight MLAs who defected to the ruling front have still not formally left the party.
Congress MLA Kh. Joykishan Singh said: “They (seven MLAs) were sitting in the Congress bench even in the budget session. If NPF walks out, it will join us and we will surely stake claim. But let the General Election get over; let’s see what the NPF decides.”
NPF leaders said the party has of late been tilting towards developing stronger ties with the Congress and wants the Manipur unit to tie up with the grand old party in the state. Former Manipur CM and Congress Legislature Party leader Okram Ibobi Singh said the Congress will welcome any such move. “Let’s see whether NPF actually pulls out…,” he said.