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When SC Jamir said, “I made two mistakes”,…there was pin drop silence

S C Jamir

Nirendra Dev
NEW DELHI, JUNE 24: As one ponders on issues and some pages from the unwritten past to be penned down for the next piece for Nagaland Page, one is overwhelmed by the thought that the write-ups are well read these days.
For the piece on ‘disqualified’ Neiphiu Rio making it to the KL Chishi Cabinet in 1990, I got a pat on the back on a Whatsapp message inbox from none other the then Chief Minister himself.
He must have pleasantly surprised to read the article of June 2 ~ ‘’Luck matters, Rio’s first entry into Cabinet was as a disqualifie legislator’.
Here is the link for those of you might need a ready reference.
Chishi’s message would massage anyone’s ego: “Thank you Nirendra for the write-up on my Government in 1990. It was lucid reminiscent”.
My Editor Monalisa Changkija termed the compliment from Chishi as “Great”. What she meant was ~ carry on with your job more sincerely.
Nevertheless all these make one feel humble but more responsible. The phrase “lucid reminiscent” could only come from a master of words like Chishi.
But thinking of democracy and what goes on in the Assemblies and Parliament, one had a stray
thought about what really goes on in the name of elections.
In a simple sense, one could say, “The will of people manifests itself through regular and time-bound elections”, courtesy The Statesman festival special magazine of 2008.
But we also know Indian elections have many vices and saboteurs to destroy its real essence such as the caste frenzy, the communal bomb, the gun culture and uses and abuses of money power.
SC Jamir, as a veteran Naga politician, has gone through different stages of politics. Around 1994-95, once he said on the floor of the Assembly, “Mr Speaker Sir, in Naga politics, I think, I made only two mistakes…”
As he uttered these words everybody, including those in the press gallery, was more than attentive. Maybe there was breaking news on the cards, something sensational from one of the
most surviving politicians and also a signatory to the 16-Point Agreement.
But Jamir surprised everyone when he said something on a more grounded subject, “One mistake was I made Vamuzo the Chief Minister and later in 1993, I made KL Chishi the Finance Minister”.
Needless to add, both were present in the House and both were furious.
On different occasions both the leaders reacted. Chishi said Jamir thought everyone else around him is a ‘pawn’. Vamuzo was his usual flamboyant, “You are a habitual liar”, he told Jamir straight.
Politics is never static. Ponder a little bit on the other side for a few years and things changed pretty fast. Nagaland State politics has undergone huge changes over the years.
If the 1960s and 1970s offered one flavour, by the 1990s, politicians started talking in different languages. By 2013-2018 era it has changed all the more.
Luck is always a vital element in life, but it is more so in politics.
In 1995, as Chief Minister, SC Jamir discovered a shy Tourist Officer namely P Wangyu Konyak. Had not NPC MLA from Tehok in Mon district TP Manlem expired and had Jamir not decided that the then pradesh Congress chief Chingwang Konyak should not enter the Assembly, Wangyu’s political career would not have started off.
He also became the Deputy Speaker and later made it to the Lok Sabha as an NPF Member of Parliament. He did exercise his voting right in the historic trial of strength in July 2008 when the Left parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh Government.
Whether one likes it or not, Jamir really had a Midas touch approach and made bright careers of a host of leaders from different parts of the State.
He had played ‘Godfather’ to the likes of Kewekhape Therie and Neiba Ndang, who became first time MLA in 1993 and straight away walked to occupy the chair of Speaker.
Student politics and NSF grounding also created leaders. Shikiho Sema and R Paphino (from Southern Angami region) were former NSF presidents. In fact, Paphino’s tenure as NSF chief was exciting as it had forced the Vamuzo Government to reduce the service age of State Government employees to 57 years of age or 33 years of service whichever is earlier.
Interestingly during the tenure of VP Singh, the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Syed (only Muslim Home Minister of India) had called NSF a “parochial” body. Predictably, the influential students’ body was furious.
A former NSF president, Shikiho Sema was then Congress Lok Sabha MP and veteran Vizol was
NPC member in Rajya Sabha.
Paphino had demanded unconditional apology from both and urged them to take up the matter befittingly with the Centre.
As one thinks of these old anecdotes of Nagaland politics, let me share a ‘secret’. A few BJP leaders and some MLAs (both NPF and NDPP) confessed that they did not know the
‘disqualified’ status of Chief Minister Rio in 1990.
What difference that would make to their politics remains a puzzle.
As a stray thought, some friends are now suggesting me to pen a small Quiz Book on Naga politics where questions could be based on these anecdotes!
The idea looks promising but meantime promise to me to read Nagaland Page regularly.
Wrap up:
The book is a ‘book’ and even a so-called Quiz book will be the one.
Book is also perhaps at the last stages of its existence. The new generation has not shown any
tendency to like books.
But as an aging old school of journalism guy, one recalls a quote of John Milton: “… who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself; kills the image of God, as it were”.