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Time for Neiphiu Rio to think of legacy he will leave

Nagaland News

In Punjab, appointment of MLAs in 2012 was set aside by Court

Nirendra Dev
New Delhi, March 11: There is already a row over constitutional impropriety on how, displaying extraordinary hurry, the portfolios of legislators in the guise of Advisors were distributed in Nagaland.
The message from the ‘much efficient’ — to use a phrase of dedicated BJP leader, Nalin Kohli — Rio Government’s governance can be kept in abeyance but ‘not distribution’ of the fruits of hard won elections.
Things have come full circle. Five years back, I visited Nagaland during elections and later during the Hornbill Festival.
My interaction with a Catholic leader, Father John Kavas of Kohima Diocese at Chipobozou village in the northern Angami Hills in December 2018, was an interesting episode. Like several Nagas in the village — of course mostly Baptists — even Father Kavas believed that the BJP being ‘against corruption’ (at the national level at least) will not hold water in Nagaland.
Of course we discussed infrastructural issues and also challenges posed by Hindutva forces and so on.
Circa 2023, we can easily conclude that the saffron party has played its cards well in Nagaland and also in the North East.
The BJP leaders have smartly presented themselves and their visions, especially of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the crusader for development — Vikas. This has struck a chord with people’s imagination and not without good reasons. The public has been suffering intensely for decades now.
In the 2018 election campaign, PM Modi and other BJP leaders promised corruption-free governance in Nagaland.
In 2023, corruption again had vanished from the lexicon of BJP leaders with regard to Nagaland and instead Rituraj Sinha and other top BJP leaders blasted Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya on the issue of graft.
On the day BJP tickets were distributed, Rio’s “Sushil Kumar Shinde-type good friend” Kohli had memory problems at the same stage (BJP headquarters) where Rituraj Sinha was attacking Conrad. Shinde had helped his ‘good friend’ SC Jamir more than once; Rio and even Chingwang Konyak were witnesses to that era.
Now, just to take the clock back. In 2018 itself, State unit Congress president, K Therie had said the BJP’s promises “will not fool the people of Nagaland, for the people have not forgotten the empty promises”.
The BJP coalition will “loot the State for another five years and leave a legacy of debt”.
We just have to refresh the old copies in the ‘sent’ mailbox and recast the statements as issued this year too.
So much talk about achievements in the Northeast but even basics such as piped water and electricity remain a far cry.
Dimapur must have started sweating for the fast approaching summer months. In Kohima and other places, there will be problems about water supply. But those who have been elected and made Ministers and Advisors will not have much to worry about. Those who missed the ‘berths’ despite sycophantic-manner ‘letters’ of support were handed over reveal that it’s just not politics.
Of course it is difficult to distinguish politics from power struggles. These coveted and juicy portfolios are only taken as natural adjuncts of politics.
According to the Constitution of India, the total number of Ministers in the Council of Ministers must not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha.
In large States also there is the same limit of 15%. In North East and in a few smaller States as exception, 12 ministers in 60-member House were allowed. Otherwise the original proposal was to allow only 9 — that is 15%. At a meeting on the subject in Shillong in 2003 attended by Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee, even the then Nagaland Chief Minister SC Jamir had fought to make it 12.
Observers say the appointment of Advisors is ‘camouflaged’ and for practical purpose they function as Ministers “only without national flags”. So, this system can be challenged.
In Punjab, the appointment of 18 MLAs as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries in 2012 by the Akali Government was set aside by the High Court.
In 2020, in Arunachal Pradesh as many as 22 MLAs were appointed as Advisors. However, Chief Minister Pema Khandu quickly clarified that “these appointments have no financial implication whatsoever to the State exchequer,” and that they shall not be entitled to any emoluments, remuneration, perks and facilities.
Chief Minister Rio in Nagaland may or may not issue such conditions. But this will be simple ritualistic.
The problems lie in mustering the necessary political will. The political class do not have that.
Forget ministership and Advisors, once the governance process starts Chief Minister will come under pressure to accommodate some netas as chairpersons of public sector units. Looking back, Rio himself was NIDC chairman in 1990 during Vamuzo days and as his friends knew he was just not happy.
That period of ‘unhappiness’ must have helped him to reshape his political journey since 1993. The last three decades offer a period of learning and unlearning of politics in Nagaland.
Move over Mr Chief Minister, it is time dear sir, you leave behind a ‘rich legacy’ vis-à-vis performance. Some of your friends want you to deliver ‘concretely’ with regard to certain departments and schemes.
The Chief Minister in office for record fifth time will do well to focus on departments such as Health, Agriculture, Tourism, Roads, and Power.
Similar attention is advisable for projects and welfare measures under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana/the Rural Livelihoods Mission, the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) and even the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY).
The SPMRM aims at developing 300 Rurban clusters, in the next five years. The aim of this scheme is to develop a ‘cluster of villages’ that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with focus on inclusiveness.
Under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana , each Members of Parliament are to take the responsibility of developing physical and institutional infrastructures in three villages and at later stage five such Adarsh Grams (one per year) are to be selected and developed.
Dr BR Ambedkar had diagnosed long back that however good a Constitution may be, it was sure to turn out bad if those who were to implement were bad. The same applies to good schemes. Let the loot stop.
It may be relevant to recall the words of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: “Our opportunities are great, but when power outstrips ability, we will fall on evil days”.