KOHIMA, FEBRUARY 20: The much hyped election campaign in poll bound Manipur by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, kicked-off at Senapati on February 16, with much jubilant, will be his last campaign for the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which is contesting in 10 seats.
Notwithstanding criticism by and apprehension of the coalition partners in Nagaland, Rio had decided to campaign for his old grand party, after he was given a green signal by Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswas Sarma, who is also the Chairman of Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
Top NPF leaders here said Rio will no more campaign for them in Manipur. But several top NPF leaders, led by its President, Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu, are campaigning to woo the voters ~ hoping to win at least 7 to 8 seats. At present, the party has 4 MLAs in the Manipur Assembly.
Nagaland Chief Minister’s election rally at Senapati town ~ which several hundreds of hopeful NPF leaders and supporters attended ~ doesn’t seemed to have benefitted the Cock party much as his speech mostly revolved around Naga peace process, and not on seeking votes for the NPF.
Rio shrewdly avoided all controversial statements which could hurt the BJP, which is the main pillar of his Government. However, he called upon all to come together to resolve the protracted Naga political issue.
“We have come to show our solidarity with NPF candidates. This election means a lot to the regional parties. This is the election of Naga unity”, he said during the rally. He further added that this time election is for the unity of Nagas, who are living in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Before February 16, there was much speculation on how Rio will campaign for theCock party, when BJP is the main coalition in Nagaland since 2018. Even an NDPP insider had said that Rio’s decision to campaign for NPF was a suicidal mission. But he cleverly manoeuvred his speech.
NPF is also an alliance of the BJP-led Government in Manipur.
Assam Chief Minister and BJP central leaders might have allowed Rio to avail opportunity of NPF rally to persuade the people and Naga militants to accept the offer of the Union Government and sign the agreement. His speech clearly reflected the true intention of his so-called poll campaign at Senapati on February 16.
Rio and Himanta have been given a task to convince the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IM) to sign the agreement.
The Chief Minister also dwelt a lot on Article 371(A), which is likely to be extended to the Naga areas in Manipur if the pact is signed. He also talked about possibility of increased seats in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Assembly constituencies.
(Page News Service)