FOR the Bharatiya Janata Party’s young, dynamic, successful and powerful President, Amit Shah, it was a big jolt. Despite his refusal of Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang’s proposal to induct Congress MLAs in his Democratic Nagaland Alliance government, in which the BJP is an ally, the CM unilaterally completed his gameplan to finish the opposition in the state assembly to permanently save his chair. He may have finished the Congress in the Assembly by making all eight MLAs ministers and parliamentary secretaries, the BJP, both in the state and at the national level, is feeling cheated by Zeliang, who actually weakened the BJP too by this masterstroke of making an all-party government for the first time in India’s political history.
It is learnt that Shah visited Kohima on April 18 and took stock of the political situation in the state where Zeliang was facing a revolt by his own party MLAs. Somehow, he saved his chair by roping in eight Congress MLAs. The state BJP, which is an ally of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) for the last 12 years, was actually weighing its own chances of forming the government with the support of rebel MLAs. It would have been the first BJP government in the North-East. Zeliang perceived the threat and proposed the idea of an all-party government in the state to Shah. To sell his idea, he went to the extent of explaining to Shah that by doing this, the state would be the first ‘Congress -mukt state’. But Shah, on the advice of the BJP state unit, refuted any such idea where the Congress and the BJP would be partners in a government. Also, the BJP saw in the swelling NPF dissident ranks a chance to topple Zeliang himself.
The unique ‘all-party’ experiment caused unease within the BJP, with saffron leaders arguing they could not be a partner of the Congress. One of the leaders said, “It is embarrassing for us. Why should we do this? We are in power in Delhi. This politics of horse-trading is against our ethos.” But things were moving in only one direction. The Zeliang ministry had been facing an open revolt with 22 NPF MLAs demanding a change of leadership on January 5. This led to the sacking of four cabinet ministers and nine parliamentary secretaries. The rebellion had forced Zeliang to move a trust vote in the Assembly on February 5, wherein all the elected members, including the opposition Congress, voted in favour of his leadership.
According to sources close to the Chief Minister, he was under tremendous pressure from the Congress MLAs who felt that they should be rewarded with posts in the government as they had saved him despite clear instructions from the Congress high command that they should oppose the government. Zeliang bowed to their pressure and inducted Congress Parliamentary Party leader Tokheho Yepthomi as minister while five other party MLAs were appointed parliamentary secretaries. One of them has been appointed adviser to the Chief Minister with a Cabinet rank and yet another accommodated as Deputy Speaker in the Assembly. With this, the CM announced that his dream of an opposition-free government had come true. The state now has an all-party government.
An aggreived BJP leader of the state, M Chuba Ao, has already sent a detailed note against the CM to the BJP’s parliamentary board. But the Chief Minister’s supporters are saying that everything was done in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat. Insiders say that the former Chief Minister and political mentor of Zeliang, SC Jamir, was behind this masterstroke. In his long political career with the Congress, Jamir was chief minister thrice, a central minister and then was appointed Governor of Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and then Odisha. Sources say that though the Modi government removed all Governors appointed by the Manmohan Singh government, Jamir is still enjoying his gubernatorial position. He, during his short tenure as the Governor of Gujarat, developed good relations with Modi, then the Chief Minister. When Modi became Prime Minister, Jamir met him in Delhi and since has not been asked to resign.
JAMIR wants to establish his son, Apok Jamir, a former Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress, in State politics. Sources say that he wanted his son to become Chief Minister with the help of the BJP. For that, he may well ask his son to join the BJP. To prepare the ground for that, his managers brokered a deal between Zeliang and the Congress MLAs.
State BJP leaders are opposed to any links between the Jamir family and the BJP. They have a different story. They say that Zeliang is the grandson of Jongshinokdang, who in the late 19th century had the providential opportunity of meeting the American Christian Missionary, Rev. Edwin W Clark, and was instrumental in bringing Christianity to Nagaland. Nagaland’s tribals were converted to Christianity in large numbers after that. With such a background, they say, how can they allow the BJP to join hands with Jamir? In this regard, the state BJP, RSS and BJP leaders have been stumped by Zeliang, who worked according to Jamir’s plan to finish both the Congress and the BJP in the state so that a powerful regional party may permanently rule.