With 21 NPF MLAs merge with CM Neiphiu Rio’s NDPP, Nagaland Assembly becomes opposition less

KOHIMA: In a major political development in Nagaland, 21 MLAs of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which in August last year joined the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) to form an opposition-less government in the state, merged with chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) on Friday.

“21 NPF MLAs have merged with NDPP in order to strengthen the leadership of our chief minister Neiphiu Rio. This will strengthen the government and also our resolve in bringing about an early settlement to the Naga political issue,” NDPP spokesperson Merentoshi R Jamir told journalists in Kohima on Friday evening. The 21 MLAs were led by former chief minister TR Zeliang, who was the NPF legislature party leader.

With the new development, the strength of the regional giant NPF has been reduced to four members in the state assembly. The NDPP, which earlier had 21 MLAs, will now have a total of 42 members. The ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) now has 42 NDPP MLAs, 12 BJP MLAs, four NPF and two independent MLAs.

Senior lawmaker Imkong L Imchen, who is one of the 21 NPF MLAs to have merged with NDPP, told that the sole objective behind the merger was to collectively push for an early solution to the protracted Naga political issue. He, however, hinted that the 21 MLAs have lost faith in the present party leadership. “In a political party, leadership matters a lot. The dynamism of the party depends on the leadership,” Imchen said, indicating that the days of NPF president Dr. Shürhozelie Liezietsu’s popularity are over. It may be mentioned that out of the four remaining NPF MLAs, one is Dr. Liezietsu’s son.

When queried why four NPF MLAs were left out of the merger, Imchen said there must have been some communication gap as their opinions (on the merger) were not taken.

When contacted, NPF secretary general Achumbemo Kikon said the party did not have any knowledge about the intention of the 21 MLAs. “The party has no knowledge about it. We came to know about it through social media. We shall sit and decide what is to be done within a day or two,” he said.
Kikon also maintained that every political party has its ups and downs, and NPF being a party that “stood the test of time” will sail through this.

“There is nothing much to worry about. Our spirit is still strong, we will sail through,” he added.
The merger move, which comes ahead of the 2023 state assembly elections, has ignited fresh speculations on the partnership between the NDPP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During 2018 assembly elections, the NDPP and the BJP entered into a pre-poll seat-sharing (40/20) arrangement where NDPP secured 17 seats and the BJP won 12. Recently, after the NPF joined the UDA, talks were doing the rounds that the relationship between the pre-poll allies was becoming strained.

However, the NDPP spokesperson denied this and affirmed that the party’s political alliance with the BJP was going “very well” and it will continue. Jamir said that the NDPP was ready to continue similar arrangements in the 2023 election and expressed hope that the alliance would continue.

Meanwhile, minister and government spokesperson Neiba Kronu said that despite the merger of 21 NPF MLAs with NDPP, the UDA was intact and will continue as partners. “As political parties it is up to the legislators to merge or not. Even though they still remain in the NPF, the UDA will continue,” he said, adding that the NLA speaker and NDPP president have agreed to this.

Mention may be made that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly speaker has already issued an order regarding the merger and has directed the commissioner and secretary NLA to publish the revised summary of information as per the rules and correct the party affiliation of the 21 members in relevant records.