Will the new Naga CM ease the tensions in Manipur?

Onkareshwar Pandey

By handing over the rein of the government to Dr. Shürhozelie Liezietsü, as the new chief minister of Nagaland, replacing incumbent T.R. Zeliang, the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) has tried to kill two birds with one stone. The 81-year-old Liezietsu is very popular Naga leader not only in his own state Nagaland, but the hilly areas of neighbouring Manipur also, which is called “South Nagalim” by Naga people, where elections are being held on 4th and 8th of March. The BJP, which has four MLAs in the state, and is the part of new ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), will also get benefits in Manipur elections, it is presumed, But whether the new CM of Nagaland Dr. Liezietsü, will also be playing any role in easing out the tension in Manipur, which is facing acute crisis due to the economic blockade imposed by UNC (United Naga Council) is being asked by observers.  One of the MLAs of BJP, Paiwang Konyak, a leader of konyak naga tribe, has taken oath as Cabinet Minister in the Liezietsü led government. The other eight independent MLAs are also in the alliance.The Naga People’s Front (NPF) president and chief minister designate, Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu in along with 11 Ministers administered the oath of office and secrecy by the governor, PB Acharya at a swearing in ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan in Kohima today.

 NPF is the major constituent of DAN with 48 legislators in the 60-member Nagaland assembly that has no opposition. Naga People’s Front, the major partner of the Northeast Democratic Alliance, a grouping of non-Congress parties floated by the BJP, is contesting 15 assembly seats in Manipur polls in March. The party, which has a support base in the Naga dominated areas of Manipur, and had made its electoral debut in Manipur by winning four out of 12 seats it contested in 2012 polls, has decided to go it alone in the state despite an alliance with BJP in Nagaland. If NPF wins in Manipur, it will certainly dampen the prospects of Congress Party, which was expecting to gain some seats in the hill areas after creation of seven new districts. The creation of new districts by ruling Congress led to economic blockade on two highways by the United Naga Council since November 1 last year. A number of Congress leaders in the Naga dominated areas have already switched their loyalty to BJP, boosting the party’s prospect in the upcoming election.The 81-year-old, one of the founding members of first regional party in Nagaland, and has a political career spanning over four decades since he was first elected to the state assembly in 1969 from northern Angami-I under Kohima district, is regarded as a most decorated educationists and eminent scholar in the Angami literature (the native language of the Angami tribe).

An eight time MLA, Liezitsu has experience of holding different portfolios, including education and planning, will have to seek re-election within six months of taking charge as Nagaland’s 11th chief minister because he had refused to contest the last Assembly elections held in 2013, allowing his son Khriehu Liezietsu to contest the polls successfully. Khriehu, 51, might give up the Northern Angami-I to let his father be re-elected. Neiphiu Rio, former chief minister and Nagaland’s sole Lok Sabha member, was said to be a front-runner for the CM’s post. His camp had allegedly herded more than 40 MLAs to a couple of resorts in Kaziranga, but his name was not considered citing a technical reason, that he was ousted from the party a year ago when he had tried to topple Zeliang government in 2015. The MLAs made their way back to Kohima only when it became clear that Zeliang was resigning in the “bigger interest of the state”.The Central leaders wanted former CM and Lok Sabha MP, Neiphiu Rio as the alternative candidate for chief minister, according to BJP sources.With the taking over of Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu as the new chief minister of Nagaland, the NPF is confident of improving its tally in the Manipur elections and may play crucial role in the next government formation in Manipur.

Dr. Liezietsu, the President of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), had created history when he along with the then Chief Minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio had formally launched the NPF Manipur State Unit on 28th May, 2011 at Senapati district in Manipur. It was considered a significant political move, because firstly, the arrival of Neiphiu Rio and Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu at Senapati was a diplomatic victory of the NPF over the then Congress-led Manipur Government and secondly, it fulfilled the long cherished dream of the Southern Nagas.The Manipur state unit of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) has fielded 15 candidates for Hilly areas of state, which accounts for 20 of the 60 seats in the assembly. NPF President Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu NPF Manipur State Unit in-charge and Nagaland Minister Yitachu and NPF Secretary General and Rajya Sabha MP KG Kenye were present during the ticket distribution cum oath taking ceremony.The Manipur assembly elections are scheduled to be held in two phases on March 4 and 8. In the first phase, 38 assembly constituencies will vote while in the second phase, the rest 22 will.

The outgoing Chief Minister T R Zeliang,  has been elected chairman of the ruling  Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) – a coalition of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), BJP and Independents – which has been in power for the third consecutive term in the state, replacing the new CM Shurhozelie Liezietsu.Zeliang had to resign from the post of Chief Minister after the anti-reservation violence in the state. in the wake of rioting, arson and large-scale intimidation of women candidates by male-dominated "civil society groups" and traditional institutions, It was alleged that the Zeliang government had walked away from upholding its position as a government of all the people of the state. As DAN chairman, Zeliang will enjoy the status of a cabinet minister and will be in an equally important position in the ruling coalition as he was earlier as chief minister. Zeliang’s name for the post of DAN’s chairman was proposed by the CM-elect Shurhozelie Liezietsu himself on Monday. The proposal was “unanimously” accepted by the legislators.Even before taking oath of office, CM-designate Shurhozelie had lauded outgoing chief minister Zeliang’s “supreme sacrifice” of vacating his chair “to save Naga people from going into further turmoil”, an official press release quoting him as saying. “He has done this with a big heart and I want all to recognise this sacrifice.”



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