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Angry NNPG Joins Issue With BJP, NDPP: Questions CM Rio’s Aide

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New Delhi, July 29 (IANS): Apprehensive that the NDPP-BJP alliance will ensure the return of chief minister Neiphiu Rio to power and this could jeopardise the peace talks, the umbrella organisation Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) issued a strong statement on Friday.

In a rather unexpected turn of events, the umbrella organisation of seven Naga rebel groups, the pro-solution NNPG on Friday made a blistering attack on NDPP and BJP for announcing a fresh electoral alliance.

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The group headed by flamboyant N. Kitovi Zhimomi, a former close associate of late NSCN leader S.S. Khaplang, in a strongly worded statement lashed out at the ruling dispensation in the state as they fear that the fresh tie up between the saffron party and Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s NDPP could further delay or even derail the final peace agreement.

“The Nalin Kohli-Abu Metha declaration is a slap on Nagas,” the working committee said in a statement.

The NNPG was formulated in 2016-17 with the personal interest of the then Nagaland Governor RN Ravi, who was apparently asked by authorities in Delhi to work out a peace formula with Naga rebels operating within the state of Nagaland.

The NSCN-IM essentially has a stronger presence in Naga hill areas of Manipur.

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The two leaders had issued a statement on July 26 announcing 40:20 seat share between NDPP and BJP.

Initially for the last two days, there was resentment among the BJP leaders too over the statement and even the  party’s floor leader and deputy chief minister Y. Patton had questioned the same saying he was not consulted.

However, on July 28, Patton accepted the party bosses’ diktats and said in a series of tweets that such an alliance will bring in stability.

The NNPG in their statement described BJP leader in-charge Nagaland, Nalin Kohli, as a “typical Indian loudmouth doing his job is a different matter”.

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Abu Metha is a trusted lieutenant of Chief Minister Rio and is regarded in Nagaland as a virtual power before the throne. He is also the secretary general of NDPP.

“If Metha is a Naga by blood, as a general secretary of the ruling party (NDPP), why did he not take  the resolutions of sixty legislators to New Delhi and demand the Govt of India to respect the expressed will and desire of the legislators,” the NNPG statement said.

The NNPG is pro-solution group and has inked Agreed Position in November 2017 and is ostensibly waiting patiently for the final peace pact.

The announcement of the alliance has given the general impression that the final agreement would be deferred yet again and political players would be again involved in electoral games and the good old business of credit seeking and blame giving.

The NNPG said – “Meet BJP Nagaland in-charge (Kohli) who conveniently signed a 40-20 election strategy, pouring cold water on the resolution of sixty legislators of Nagaland. Abu Metha waited all these years to stab the Naga people in the heart with Indian election strategy.”

“He (Metha) has failed to measure the overwhelming desire and demand of Naga people for a political solution. He has taken his jack-of-all-trades, cheap showboating antics and mannerisms a bit too far. Is he playing with fire? He will have to ask himself,” the umbrella organisation sought to caution.

This statement from the NNPG has probably given a new twist to the complex Naga issue and various facets of the negotiations and the peace parleys.

On July 28, Thursday, after Patton issued a press statement and posted tweets in favour of the alliance, it was seen as a major ‘win’ at the battle of wits for the Chief Minister Rio. But this fresh statement from NNPG shows that there is probably more to the complexities of the Naga peace talks.

On July 26, in an unprecedented move Home minister Amit Shah met Rio and Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (also NEDA convener) and allowed a public statement on continuing the alliance.

An analyst told IANS: “Amit Shah may have different and complex plans to agree to this alliance. He may give rope to Neiphiu Rio to deliver something”.

Is it linked to the stalled Naga peace talks and to bring NSCN-IM back to the negotiating table is anybody’s guess.

Rio was earlier urged by the Central Government to bring in NSCN-IM and its leader Thuingaleng Muivah on board for signing of a peace pact. The NSCN-IM has over the months since October 2019 stalled the peace process by raking up the bogies of Naga flag and a separate constitution.

The NNPG, however, which had good rapport with former negotiator and Governor R.N. Ravi, had said time and again that a solution pact ought to be inked at the earliest to herald peace.

Other issues could be discussed or taken up in democratic spirit and through a suitable democratic process.

“We want a win-win peace pact and solution for both the Nagas and the Government of India,” NNPG leader Kitovi had told a group of Naga youths and intellectuals last year.

There are a few other facets in the entire NDPP-BJP row.

Nagaland BJP leaders and ministers in the Rio cabinet owe allegiance to chief minister Neiphiu Rio and did not delay in welcoming the alliance. Most of them also fear defeat in their respective assembly segments in the event of contesting without any alliance with the cash-rich and resourceful partner.

“The alliance will prove strong and undisputed with blessings of central leadership & Shri. Neiphiu Rio as the Chief Minister for another term,” tweeted minister Paiwang Konyak, BJP legislator from Tizit.

Technically, Amit Shah, though a very powerful leader as the Union Home Minister, is not authorized to finalise such a political deal in the absence of a meeting of the Parliamentary Board. Even organisational general secretary B.L. Santhosh and BJP national president J.P. Nadda were not present on the occasion when Shah gave his nod for the alliance.

One source says: “For states like Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland, often government’s decisions and analyses take precedence. The party will not do anything which may harm the bigger national cause.” All these could imply reference to Naga peace talks.

Rio might have some influence on the NSCN-IM strongman Muivah, it is being presumed.

Importantly, Patton and two other Naga BJP leaders met B L Santhosh in Delhi on July 24 (Sunday) and impressed upon him not to allow the alliance. There is a Tsunami of support for the BJP and the saffron party can come to power on its own, they had argued.

The NNPG statement also cautioned that the peace talk was decidedly a “people’s negotiation” which is why those who put “personal ambition before Naga people’s political aspiration” will have to understand the gravity of their actions.

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