The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New coalition keeps Nagaland waiting

March 2: The stage is set for Manik Sarkar to be sworn in as the chief minister of Tripura for a second term and D.D. Lapang to form a Congress-led government in Meghalaya, but Nagaland may have to wait a while before the victorious non-Congress alliance of four parties decides who will lead the new ministry.

With outgoing chief minister S.C. Jamir conceding defeat, the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) was expected to reach a consensus on the leadership issue without much fuss. However, the alliance partners struggled throughout the day to find a meeting ground.

Another round of discussions will be held in Kohima tomorrow to resolve the issue. If everything goes well, the alliance will stake claim to form the government on Tuesday, sources said.

The four parties that comprise DAN have a combined tally of 29 seats and the support of four Independents. The Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) leads the group with 19 seats, while the BJP has seven, the Janata Dal (United) two and the Samata Party one.

NPF spokesman K. Therie said the four Independent legislators had extended their support to the alliance “in writing”. He said his party hoped to win in the two constituencies where repolling will be held tomorrow.

As the NPF and its allies tried to remove the hurdles in the way of forming a government, the Congress was busy giving reasons for not retaining the majority in the 60-member Assembly.

Jamir attributed the setback to interference in the elections by the NSCN (I-M). The chief minister said he would submit his resignation letter to Governor Shyamal Dutta tomorrow. “We are in the minority; so we will sit in the Opposition.”

The veteran Congressman signed off with a sarcastic comment on the NSCN (I-M)’s alleged role in the elections. “I congratulate them and hope they will pursue their political goal of hammering out an honourable solution to the vexed Naga political problem with the same spirit and determination.”

In Meghalaya, the Congress leadership hurriedly cobbled up a coalition with three regional parties and three Independent MLAs, met Governor M.M. Jacob and submitted a “letter of understanding” signed by the alliance partners.

Lapang, who was re-elected from Nongpoh constituency, is likely to be sworn in as chief minister tomorrow afternoon. Sources said he would lead a 38-member ministry.

The United Democratic Party (UDP) legislator from Shella, Donkupar Roy, is expected to be Lapang’s deputy. He was education minister in the outgoing government.

The Congress has 22 legislators in the 60-member Assembly. The Nationalist Congress Party is the second-largest party with 14. Its leader, Purno Sangma, claimed he had the required numbers and would stake claim tomorrow.

The UDP has nine members and the Meghalaya Democratic Party four.

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