Instability ahead


After months of bitter campaigning, we now have a new ruler in Nagaland with the public swearing in of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government on Thursday. It was a sweet return to the Chief Minister’s chair for Neiphiu Rio, who had in 2013 stepped down from the CM’s chair to go to the Lok Sabha. But with his script not going as planned, Rio attempt to return to State politics and take over the Chief Minister’s chair by engineering defections and instability in the DAN-3 Government miserably failed. However, Rio’s gamble to align with the BJP despite Church bodies caution against the secular agenda of the saffron party appears to have paid off. But for the CM’s chair for himself, Rio had to sacrifice a lot by literally making his party a junior partner in the Government to the BJP despite the NDPP having more elected legislators than its alliance partner. And herein the question of stability of the PDA Government arises. The NDPP-BJP alliance went to the polls on the slogan ‘Change is coming’ with the assurance to provide a sable Government. But is change possible if the Government is unstable? There are already reports of discontentment within the NDPP, particularly elected legislators, over how the party had “sold out” to junior partner BJP in the alliance/coalition. In the 13th general election, the NDPP won 18 seats, while the BJP won 12; but as per the distribution of Ministerial berth, the BJP got the lion’s share with six Ministers (including Deputy Chief Minister) making it the senior partner in the Government while the NDPP had to content with only the Chief Minister’s chair and three Ministers. The situation for Rio to keep his MLAs happy and not stray became tougher, as he won’t be appointing parliamentary secretaries. “We don’t intend to go against the law of the land and we will not be appointing parliamentary secretaries,” Rio had said after the swearing in ceremony. On if stability could be achieved without appointing parliamentary secretaries, Rio said that the alliance is consulting legal luminaries “to work out some devise and method.” However, whatever “devise and methods” they manage to work out, it will still likely come under ‘office of profit’ and hence face Court’s action. And opposition NPF with 26 MLAs in its kitty, just four short of a simple majority, is waiting in the corner to take advantage of the situation Rio finds himself in. Already the NPF has fired its first salvo, with senior NPF legislator Chotisuh Sazo claiming that Rio will be a BJP remote controlled Chief Minister. Sazo said Rio appears to have already been squeezed hard by the BJP, while also claiming that not only the six Ministers going to the BJP, even Lok Sabha MP seat was assured to the BJP, besides 40% posts in the Chief Minister’s Office to BJP. While politics will continue to be played over the next few months whether to make or break the Government by the ruling and opposition parties, the losers will again be the electorates, the people of the State, who had voted for a change and for stability. During the campaign trail, both the NPF and the BJP-NDPP alliance had promised to provide a “stable government”, seeing that the DAN-3 was plagued by instability putting governance out of order. But with a fractured mandate now, a stable Government appears highly unlikely. With Court judgements against appointment of parliamentary secretaries on the issue of ‘office of profit’, and as Rio himself had admitted, the Government will not be appointing parliamentary secretaries or advisors, chairman of boards/PSUs, etc. We will have a Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and ten Ministers only. This will naturally lead to disgruntlement among the elected members of the party, and alliance partners who had spent crores of rupees to get elected, as the Government cannot accommodate all in the ministry. Remember, in DAN-3 we had more than 40 elected legislators in the Government, including ministers, parliamentary secretaries, advisors with cabinet status, etc. but it was the most unstable Government ever in the State’s history with at least three changes in Government. Indeed while we might have sworn in a new Government, it appears we are consigned to another term of instability, and consequently another five years of misgovernance.