Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Strange bedfellows

As notification for election schedule for Nagaland is awaited, the political scenario over whether or not polls will be held appears more or less settled. The suspense had been over the expected solution to the Naga political issue which appears to be still awaiting the clearance for drafting the final agreement. In the 2018 assembly election, two politically strong parties vied for power- then incumbent NPF versus the nascent NDPP which forged a pre-poll alliance with BJP. Till the election, BJP had been in alliance with NPF but fell out due to seat sharing. The NDPP-BJP forged a pre-poll alliance in 2018 and wrested power from the incumbent NPF with support of independents, NPP and JDU under the nomenclature of Progressive Democratic Alliance(PDA). Interestingly, the BJP was in alliance with NPF under Democratic Alliance of Nagaland(DAN-III) till January 2018. The political opportunism saw another nadir in state politics, when the NPF in July 2021, joined the PDA to form the United Democratic Alliance(UDA) the second such ‘opposition-less government’. The first opposition-less government was formed in May 2015 when eight Congress MLAs merged with NPF and some inducted to the T.R.Zeliang ministry. The first opposition-less government came to an end when BJP split ranks with NPF over seat sharing. By then, some NPF members joined the nascent Democratic Progressive Party(DPP) which was later renamed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party(NDPP) after then Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio joined the party. The UDA, the second ‘opposition-less government’ comprising of 25 NPF, 21 NDPP, 12 BJP and two independents, took a more amorphous form when 21 NPF legislators joined NDPP on April 29,2022. The four remaining NPF legislators continue to be part of the opposition-less UDA government but not as ruling coalition. The strange logic of opposition-less government in Nagaland continues to defy all kinds of constitutional ethic and logic. The expected election in 2023 will unveil another strange phenomenon when UDA partners –NPF and erstwhile PDA (NDPP,BJP, Independents)will fight each other. The other interesting part is uncertainty within the PDA alliance (NDPP, BJP, Independents) over seat sharing. After 21 NPF legislators merged with NDPP, the party’s tally rose to 42 MLAs. Two other independents are also part of the ruling coalition and considered as associate members of NDPP. With regard to seat sharing, the BJP national leaders seem to have a different take from that of state BJP unit. The BJP national leaders have reaffirmed that the party will remain committed to the alliance with NDPP and fight together on a 40(NDPP) and 20(BJP) seat sharing adjustment for 2023. The state unit such as BJP legislature party leader and deputy chief minister home, Y.Patton has been pitching for a 30:30 seat sharing formula. The state unit president Temjen Imna Along hasn’t said much but that itself indicates how he sees the matter. Majority of the state BJP members feel that the party can win more seats if it contests 30 seats and even forms the next government. On the part of the NPF, presently reduced to only four MLAs, the defection of 21 led by the party’s legislature party leader and former chief minister T.R.Zeliang has dealt a huge blow. The NDPP however has a herculean task on who among the 44 aspirants(42 party MLAs and two independents) will get 40 party tickets as per seat sharing formula? How and to whom NDPP issues ticket will probably influence political developments in the run up to the polls.

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