Nagaland crisis: TR Zeliang quits as CM, Shurhozelie Liezietsu to take over
The suspense over who would succeed TR Zeliang as Nagaland's chief minister has ended after Shurhozelie Liezietsu was unanimously elected as the new leader of the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland. Liezietsu is likely to be sworn in either late on Monday or Tuesday.
Facing widespread opposition to his decision of reserving 33% seats in civic body elections for women, Zeliang resigned as chief minister on Sunday. He submitted his resignation to Governor PB Acharya after meeting the central leadership in Delhi.
Soon after, former chief minister Niephiu Rio, Nagaland's only Lok Sabha member, and Naga People's Front (NPF) supremo Liezietsu emerged as the frontrunners to succeed Zeliang. In the meantime, Acharya accepted Zeliang's resignation and asked him to continue as the care taker until a successor was formally announced.
Last Wednesday, 42 of the 49 ruling NPF legislators had thrown their weight behind Liezietsu, 81, and demanded that he be declared as the new legislature party leader. With another group backing Rio for the post, a power struggle has erupted in the Northeastern state. Sources close to Rio had ruled out the possibility of him taking over the reigns from Zeliang, however.
They argued that with the assembly election only a year away, it would make no sense for Rio to take over and carry forward Zeliang's “unpopular legacy”. “If he takes over as the chief minister, he will face massive anti-incumbency at the end of this government's tenure which could spell doom for his career,” a source close to him said. Moreover, since 42 legislators are already backing Liezietsu, there is no way the legislators are likely to back down and extend support to Rio.
The Rio camp, though, is mulling floating a new outfit before the assembly election in February 2018. The idea apparently is to nullify anti-incumbency. “Rio has a clean image and doesn't carry the tag of being a corrupt politician. If he floats a party, people of the state, who are fed up of the corrupt ways of the NPF, are likely to back him,” said the source.
The final decision on who would lead the DAN regime was taken at the NPF Legislature Party meeting on Monday. The emergency meeting was convened to choose the next chief minister and the legislators unanimously chose Liezietsu. Zeliang had requested all MLAs to attend the meet to ensure smooth transition of power.
The legislators of the NPF and independents supporting their government had met at a resort near Kaziranga National Park in Assam on Saturday, but they couldn't reach a conclusion. It was then decided that the final call would be taken Monday. After meeting the governor, Zeliang held a brief meeting with the legislators, wherein he informed them that several reports from the state have been submitted to the central government requesting President's Rule. The care taker chief minister also claimed the central leadership was seeking to replace him with Rio.
Zeliang added that several reports from the governor and even the Assam Rifles, CRPF and Intelligence Bureau, among others, have recommended that President's Rule be imposed. Citing complete breakdown of law and order, even Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee requested that the state be put under President's Rule and the election be held at the earliest.
Speaking to Catch from Shillong, NPCC chief Kewekhape Therie said the NPF government “has no moral authority to rule because it has betrayed the mandate of the people”. “For the last 20 days, people have imposed a curfew in the state and no government office, including the secretariat, is open. NPF has betrayed the people of Nagaland and these characters should no longer rule. They have looted the state and by just changing the CM, things won't change,” Therie said.
Therie claimed that the controversial decision to give 33% reservation to women in local bodies has created divisions among men and women, and people and lawmakers.
Since the Zeliang government announced 33% reservation for women, the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee and the Joint Coordination Committee, which are spearheading the opposition to the proposal, have paralysed the state administration, demanding the roll back of the proposal and Zeliang's resignation. It remains to be seen whether Liezietsu's elevation would bring back normalcy.