Updated: March 8, 2018 6:28:03 pm
“Change is coming, change is here, NDPP-BJP together we’ll bring the change,” crooned young voices as the faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now the four-time Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio smiled at the huge gathering at Khouciezie (Kohima Local Ground) from giant LED screens.
The elected members to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly had just been administered the oath by Nagaland Governor PB Acharya in a public event. The event marked the comeback of Rio as the chief minister of Nagaland after being on an exile of sorts from Nagaland state politics since he stepped out with the ambition of a union cabinet berth in 2014.
But the day belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With fluttering saffron flags that dot the landscape, the BJP has finally arrived in Nagaland. Winning on an unprecedented and unexpected 12 seats amidst a fractured verdict, BJP had the bargaining power to grab five cabinet berths in a ministry of 12, and the post of deputy chief minister. The national party now has a lion’s share in the new People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA). BJP’s PDA partner Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), despite being in the driver’s seat, has three cabinet ministers and the post of chief minister. The other two berths are being occupied by one JD(U) and one Independent MLA.
The national party has been part of Nagaland government since 2003 when it won seven seats and joined the government as part of Naga People’s Front-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland. Rio was then a NPF man and was heading the alliance. But the going for BJP in Nagaland state politics has not been smooth. In the election in 2008, the party managed just two seats. In 2013 elections, BJP could manage just one win. The outgoing cabinet though had two BJP ministers, including a NCP MLA who joined the national party right after Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
But till 2018 elections had arrived, BJP as a party existed on the margins of the political spectrum of Nagaland. In the state where elections are fought and won based on individual candidates, tribal and clan affiliations, BJP as the saffron party had barely even scratched the surface.
Highly placed sources informed that the public display of affection between Rio’s NDPP and BJP was the concept of the national party’s top brass. BJP, playing on the backfoot in Nagaland on the issue of communalism, wanted to begin a fresh chapter in the state in a bold manner and with characteristic pomp.
This also signalled that the 2009 orchestration by Rio in finishing off Nagaland BJP unit has been forgotten.
In attendance at the swearing-in ceremony was a galaxy of BJP leaders – union minister of defence Nirmala Sitaraman, union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, BJP national general secretary Amit Shah, and BJP chief ministers of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and newly sworn-in chief minister of Meghalaya Conrad Sangma. Also in attendance was outgoing chief minister TR Zeliang and his cabinet colleagues.
Steep challenges await the PDA as they get ready to take over the ruling bench in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. Unpaid salaries, non-existent roads, unemployment, and corruption at all levels of governance are waiting to be addressed even as people in the audience tap their feet to the song of change.
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