Thursday, December 17, 2015

Whats up in Naga hills? Awaited ‘Mahayudh’ ! Chubatoshi versus Neiphiu Rio

Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang survived a major political crisis in February 2015. He mustered support of 59 MLAs in 60-member House but most of it was due to his good luck as he became a beneficiary of ‘no alternative’ factor. But merger of 8-Congress MLAs with NPF indicate veteran S C Jamir’s hidden hands and thus a more interesting political game in future.

PM Modi seems to favour T R Zeliang

In 1963 when Nagaland attained its ‘statehood’ after lot of bloodshed and fierce negotiations some local leaders harboured quite idealistic dreams about the state and the people. Likes of Hokishe Sema, a protagonist of nationalism, and P Shilu Ao, state’s first Chief Minister often spoke about making a right synthesis between  Naga values and great teachings of Indian civilization. During my interaction with Hokishe Sema many years later, I have often heard the legendary leader talk about the purpose of importance of public conduct of leaders. 

This, Hokishe used to say was crucial. The practical challenge in building the new state was actually at the stressing on the performance at lower levels but be careful about how the upper echelons conduct because that tends to attract public attention.
These lofty talks seemed to be relevant today as Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang now finds himself embroiled in a litigation of fake degree case. 

It is a unique case as a rebel MLA camping in Delhi said, “Never in the past a Naga Chief Minister faced such a serious charge of false declaration and false claim about educational qualification”. The case only puts Nagas in poor light. Having examined the papers submitted by the North Eastern Hill University and Kohima College, the magisterial court in Kohima of Tucuno Vamuzo had summoned Zeliang for appearance in the court. This has been put on stay by the Gauhati High Court, which will hear it on January 20, 2016. Politically this case means a blessing for the anti-Zeliang camp.

It’s rightly said rebellion or ‘the political headhunting’ as is known in Naga hills – is more than popular syndrome, its a political sports.

The politics – we often hear - is an art and not a science. Mere compilation of facts of matter hardly makes a difference. It’s more relevant in Nagaland. We have emphasized earlier many times in these columns on how messy affair the Naga politics is – given the complexity of use of money power and push and pull between various underground factions and their impact on state politics. Thus it’s only natural that on the backdrop of ‘fake degree case’ against the Chief Minister --- there will be dissident activity and big fishes will plunge into the pond.

The merger of 8 Congress MLAs - including the likes of C Apok  Jamir and S I Jamir (son and brother respectively of  Odisha Governor S C Jamir) with the NPF has added new dimension to the entire political game. While the regional party's strength has gone to 46 in the 60-member House, this move has left many prominent NPF leaders unnerved. Some even say besides the elected NPF MLAs, powerful regional leaders like the sitting NPF MP Neiphiu Rio, a former Chief Minister, too is irked.
What irks them is the fact that everyone feels veteran S Chubatoshi Jamir is back in the reckoning - backing the idea of ‘merger’ of 8 Congress legislators with NPF. 

Jamir has his reasons as at the ripe age of 84, the onus is now on him to rehabilitate son Apok Jamir in the state politics. In quirk turn of polity veteran Jamir finds the stage favourable for him to act quickly to regain his position in the state politics.

Last time in electoral politics – Jamir was himself humbled in a by-election in Aonglenden assembly segment in 2011. Later in 2013 assembly elections, wherein Jamir also campaigned aggressively, Congress strength was reduced to single digit 8 – the lowest ever in Congress history in Nagaland.

For Jamir – the messy contemporary affairs of a conflict between Zeliang and Neiphiu Rio also provides an opportunity to avenge his defeat at the hands of Neiphiu Rio, his onetime trusted lieutenant. 
Reports suggest Zeliang and Shurhozelie (NPF president) being “weak players” vis-à-vis Rio are also looking towards a “resourceful Jamir”. For his part though in constitutional post far off in Bhubaneshwar, every Nagaland watcher is aware of Jamir’s first love – that is Nagaland state politics. And his people would still love him!

Jamir was awarded with the appellation ‘Quasquicentennial Man’ by the “people of Mokokchung"on December 16. 

These have turned only curious as Jamir, though a veteran Congressman and someone who has worked closely with the likes of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, somehow has managed to keep a harmonious working relation with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While several Governors appointed during Congress-led UPA regime were given the boot since May 2014 when Modi took over, Chubatoshi Jamir has survived. This despite his much criticised decision of dismissing Manohor Parrikar government in Goa in 2005.
It is also worth mentioning here that during his stint as Governor of Maharashtra, Jamir also held charge as Gujarat Governor for a brief period from July to November 2009. Jamir’s admirers would agree that it goes to the tribute of Jamir’s pragmatic politics that as in-charge of gubernatorial post, Jamir hardly had any major conflict with his then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 

Jamir is hailed in Nagaland for his political shrewdness. He is known for several famous games of chess wherein he humbled old rivals the likes of regionalist Vamuzo and another veteran Congressman Hokishe Sema. But he met his nemesis in Neiphiu Rio. Hence, Nagaland watchers have curious fun time ahead as the stage is getting set for a ‘Mahayudh’ (Great war) between S C Jamir and his onetime trusted lieutenant Neiphiu Rio.

(ends)

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