Nagaland CM T.R. Zeliang resigns

Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang on Sunday put in his papers to pave way for his successor to lead the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition government.

Zeliang, who arrived here on Sunday afternoon from New Delhi, accompanied by several of his senior Cabinet colleagues, submitted his resignation to the Governor of Nagaland P.B. Acharya.

Acharya accepted the resignation of Zeliang, but asked him “to continue in office till an alternative arrangement is made.”

In the wake of Zeling’s announcement to conduct civic body elections with 33 per cent reservation for women, some tribal groups had been demanding his resignation.

Earlier in the evening, Zeliang called for an emergency meeting of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) legislature party on Monday at the state banquet hall, where a new leader is expected to be elected.

This will be followed by a meeting of the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland legislature party at the same venue.

However, it is still not clear who will replace the embattled Chief Minster, as there is a division within the ruling Naga People’s Front legislators on Zeliang’s successor.

Former Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, who is the state’s Lok Sabha member, and Naga People’s Front supremo Shurhozelie Liezietsu are in the race for the top seat.

“As of now, we cannot say anything who is going to replace Zeliang. Everything will be clear tomorrow (Monday) at the NPF legislature party meeting,” a NPF legislator told IANS on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, 42 of the 49 legislators had unanimously supported Shurhozelie as their new legislature party leader to break the deadlock between the agitating tribal groups and the government.

However, a group of nearly 20 legislators, including some Cabinet ministers, were against 81-year-old Shurhozelie as their legislature party leader and threw their weight behind Rio, the three-time Chief Minister.

On Saturday, 49 NPF and Independent legislators met Rio at Borgoch Resort, close to Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. The legislators extended their support to Rio.

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

The Chief Minister has requested all members of the Legislature to attend Monday’s meeting, “so as to select a consensus leader to ensure smooth transition of office and to provide the best governance to the people of Nagaland”.

In the evening, while briefing legislators at the State Banquet Hall about his trip to the national Capital, the Chief Minister said he had learned in the course of his interactions with various central leaders that several reports have been submitted to the government of India asking for imposition of President’s Rule in Nagaland.

“Besides normal and regular reports passed on to the central government from the Governor, the Intelligence Bureau, the Assam Rifles and the CRPF, there were reports submitted by the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee and a learned retired Supreme Court Judge recommending immediate imposition of central rule owing to, what they said, a breakdown of the government machinery,” Zeliang told the legislators.

“But I pointed out that Naga people cannot afford to have President’s Rule when the political talks are going ahead to solve the Naga political issue,” he said.

Zeliang said that he can confidently assure the legislators that there is “little chance” of President’s Rule being imposed in Nagaland.

“To arrive at a consensus decision requires time, and so I have accordingly asked for a short period of time to be given,” he said.

“The central leaders and some groups I met in Delhi told me they have received suggestions that Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio should come back to the state and take over the reins, but I made it clear to them that I can’t decide by myself in Delhi and that I have to consult the NPF legislators and the Alliance partners.