Tuesday, 29 September 2015

An Unlikely Marriage of Convenience

In a strange political turnaround, the Congress and BJP have joined the same ruling alliance in the northeastern state of Nagaland. With the AICC failing to read the mind of its activists, it's BJP which is smirking in the background. Prabuddha Neogi writes


Politics makes strange bedfellows. And that has thrown up a peculiar situation in Nagaland. While arch rivals BJP and Congress are at loggerheads in every other state in India, in Nagaland, legislators of the two parties have joined the same ruling coalition government. Political observers say that both parties lack any conviction on their respective party’s ideologies. Others argue that compulsions of the present circumstances have made the bonhomie possible. 

Legislators of both the Congress and BJP in the Naga People’s Front-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition, headed by chief minister TR Zeliang, have patched together a strange twist of fate. Dissidents in the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) can take credit in this regard because they forged a political crisis which ended up bringing the political foes closer. While legislators of both the parties are less inclined to talk about their ideologies, senior Congress and BJP leaders continue to reiterate their differences and insist that they can’t have truck with each other. Party ideologies, undeniably, plays a key role. But it hardly mattered to the legislators who justified their patch up, either on the pretext of backing Zeliang, or on the plea of coming together to reach an end to the Naga political problems.

People queue up to vote during the recent assembly polls in the state
The All India Congress Committee (AICC), meanwhile, suspended eight of its legislators. But they still remain as Congress MLAs. The party has been losing three elections of the trot. Its tally fell from 23 to 19 and now eight. The AICC suspended the eight legislators after it found their responses to the show cause notices ‘unsatisfactory’. It submitted a petition seeking disqualification of the suspended legislators. The move backfired and it irked the majority in the party across its rank and file. It also heightened resentment against the ouster of nearly 60 percent of the Assembly Constituency Congress Committee (ACCC) members to revamp the organisation under the new leadership. 

The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) programme at Kohima on 24 September, to launch the party’s roadmap, didn’t go according to the plan. Anger and resentment reigned supreme among the suspended legislators. Hundreds of party activists started shouting slogans and berated AICC officials present at the event, including the NPCC president.  The protests and sloganeering exposed a big crevasse in the Congress over how the matter was supposed to be handled. There are likely to be different interpretations regarding the division as to whether it was because of ideology or factional feud.

The AICC too erred on not being able to read the pulse of the party workers. There were allegations that the AICC officials had instructed the legislators to support either the Zeilang group or the dissidents headed by Neiphiu Rio, provided no BJP legislator was in any of the groups. It only exposed how unawares the AICC officials were about the ground realities. Most of them were never seen in Nagaland in the months when the state plunged into a deep political crisis. Or maybe it’s the present state of affairs that has brought together legislators of all parties together. Should that be the case, then it would perhaps be the first time when warring legislators set aside their personal differences and came together for the welfare of a state. 

BJP, on its part, is silently watching the Congress drama from the sidelines.

More on the North East: The Growing Maoist Threat in Assam

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The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub