Change of guard in Nagaland on the offing?

Kohima, Feb 14 (IANS) A change of guard in trouble-torn Nagaland is on the offing in the wake of the ongoing agitation by tribal bodies to demand resignation of Chief Minister T.R.Zeliang for his decision to conduct civic bodies elections with 33 per cent reservation for women, a NPF leader said on Tuesday.

“We (legislators) have held a meeting with the Chief Minister on the prevailing law and order situation across the state. In a bid to restore normalcy in the state, we have decided to elect our legislature party leader in the Assembly if the tense situation refused to subside,” a Naga People’s Front (NPF) legislator told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“However, we have not decided the new legislature party leader to replace Zeliang,” he said.

When IANS tried to contact Zeliang for his comment, he did not pick up his phone.

The beleaguered Chief Minister, who is heading an opposition-less government, however, had said that he still enjoys the majority support of his legislators in the assembly.

“I will resign only if my government is reduced to minority. I enjoy the support of all members barring the Speaker,” Zeliang had told journalists.

In the 60-member House, the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland coalition government, which comprises of 48 NPF legislators including suspended legislator Imkong Imchen, four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and eight Independents.

Nagaland has been in turmoil since January after the NPF-led state government decided to hold local body elections in 12 towns across the state.

Tribal groups — under the banner of Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) — have intensified their agitation after Zeliang refused to accede to their demand and step down. Their three-day ultimatum in this regard ended on February 10.

Three people have died and many injured following clashes between police and the public, who were opposing the conduct of the civic elections — where provisions have been made for reservation of seats for women.

NTAC Convener K.T.Velie told IANS that the tribal bodies, which have the public support, will continue with the agitation the Chief Minister steps down for his decision to conduct the local bodies’ elections.

Former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who is also the lone Lok Sabha member from Nagaland, briefed National Security Adviser Ajit Doval about the current situation with regard to the civic bodies elections.

Nagaland BJP legislators have appealed to the agitating tribal groups to come to the negotiating table with the government and resolve the matter amicably for the society to resume normal life at the earliest in the spirit of understanding and forgiveness.