Nagaland polls: BJP wins 12 seats, emerges as kingmaker in hung house
The Bharatiya Janata Party that created history in Tripura has also notched up its best performance in Nagaland by winning 12 seats. With the state witnessing a hung Assembly, the BJP has emerged as the kingmaker being wooed by both the main regional parties.
They are sure to be in the next government with either the Shurhozelie Liezietsu and TR Zeilang-led Naga People’s Front or the Neiphiu Rio-led Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) with which it had a pre-poll alliance.
The previous best for the BJP was seven seats under the leadership of senior leader Hokishe Sema in 2003 when Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister. In 2013, the saffron party was reduced to just one seat.
“In Nagaland, NDPP-BJP alliance has secured 30 seats. With the support of 1 independent we are comfortably placed to form d government,” tweeted Ram Madhav.
The figures at 6.30 pm indicated that the NPF had won 27 seats and its allies – Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party and Janata Dal (United) had won one each. The BJP’s 12 with NDPP’s 17 also makes up 29, indicating a tie in the state. An independent who won, Tongpang Ozukum from the Angetyongpang constituency, is believed to be with NPF, but could switch sides, say sources.
Later in the evening the JD(U) announced its support for the BJP for “the formation of a stable government in Nagaland”, indicating that it could shift to the NDPP in case the BJP chooses to stick with Rio.
However, BJP’s party in-charge for Nagaland, Kiren Rijiju, was cautious.
“It is a hung Assembly, so we will have to discuss,” party in-charge for Nagaland Rijiju told Catch. “
The NPF seemed confident of getting the BJP on its side.
“The BJP may go with us for sake of stability. There will be a meeting of the party president and CM candidate Mr TR Zeliang with Mr Rijiju tomorrow,” said a senior NPF source.
The trouble is that if the BJP enters the NPF coalition, smaller partners could raise objections during portfolio sharing. Only 12 portfolios can be distributed and due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, the liberal and indiscriminate appointment of parliamentary secretaries by any chief minister may not be possible.
Indications are that the saffron party, which contested on 20 seats in a pre-poll alliance with NDPP, could finally bring three-time chief minister Rio back into state politics. Rio’s hopes of being chief minister seemed dashed till afternoon but results in small constituencies changed rapidly.
An elated Rio told a news channel that “Prime Minister Modi is a star.”
Ultimately, the rivalry between Rio and Zeliang may end in the victory for the more experienced Rio.
Zeliang is also said to have been in touch with BJP leaders even ahead of elections in which his NPF and BJP fought tooth and nail. The clashes reportedly resulted in the death of a person in the Akuloto constituency in Zunheboto district on polling day.
On the eve of counting day, the NPF that went ballistic against the BJP and tried to brand it an “alien” and “Hindutva party”, changed tack and tried to build bridges.
The BJP had never burnt the bridges with the NPF, despite apparent bitterness. Rijiju had made it clear in Guwahati ahead of the elections that NPF is “not an enemy”.
In a release Friday, NPF announced that in the interest of the political solution to the Naga problem it continues to be an alliance partner of the BJP.
One of the first priorities of a BJP-supported government here will be to bring in a settlement to the talks with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and other groups. The proscribed NSCN (Khaplang) also did not engage in mischief during the polls and is believed to be in backdoor talks to come to the negotiating table.
In the final year before the General Elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may spring a surprise by wrapping up the Naga problem. NSCN (IM) sources said they are extremely hopeful. “We even welcome the NSCN (K) to join the talks, there can be only a single solution,” said the source.
Incidentally, the NSCN (IM) has consistently favoured Rio as the chief minister and the true facilitator of the talks.
As for the BJP, the Naga solution could be showcased to the electorate as efforts by the NDA government to bring peace in the region.