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NDA model for Nagaland ministry

Kohima, March 5: For the first time in Nagaland’s history, as many as three national parties will be part of a coalition government modelled on the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre.

The Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), which has 38 legislators in the 60-member Assembly, today submitted a list of signatures to Governor Shyamal Dutta. Indications are that a new ministry, led by former Congress minister Neiphiu Rio, will be sworn in tomorrow.

The nascent alliance includes the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF), the BJP, the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United). While Rio is the undisputed choice for the chief minister’s post, veteran politician Hokishe Sema has been elected the chairman of the alliance.

Sema, a former chief minister and a relatively new member of the BJP, could not attend the meeting because of illness. He is recuperating at the Rangapahar hospital in Dimapur.

Both the JD (U) and the BJP leadership have said they would strive to remove misconceptions about Nagaland and make it a model state. “The Naga people are brave and upright. But the message conveyed by certain people is that the Nagas are corrupt people,” Arun Kumar Shrivastava, general secretary of the JD (U), said in reference to outgoing chief minister S.C. Jamir.

Pyarelal Khandelwal, senior vice-president of the BJP, hoped that Rio would keep his flock together, “just like Vajpayeeji is doing in Delhi”. However, he said it would be impractical to expect the NPF, which leads the alliance, to satisfy its allies in all respects.

“It is the duty of each constituent of the alliance to strengthen the partnership,” Khandelwal said.

The new coalition received a shot in the arm yesterday when the Nagaland Democratic Movement (NDM) pledged its support. Former chief minister K.L. Chishi, who is the president of the party, said he was ready to support the alliance “from outside”. The NDM won four seats in the elections.

NDM leaders E.T. Ezung, K. Hollohon and a couple of other members of the party attended today’s meeting. “We are definitely extending support,” Hollohon told The Telegraph.

Sources said almost all members of the coalition favoured forming a government without delay.

Till yesterday, there was talk of the swearing-in ceremony being held on Saturday in the presence of defence minister and Samata Party leader George Fernandes, JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav and BJP president Venkaiah Naidu.

Rio hinted that the new ministry would be a large one. “You know the size of alliance; so I leave it to your imagination,” he told newspersons after the meeting.

The Congress won 20 seats in the elections, while the NPF clinched 19. The BJP exceeded expectations by winning six, one more than the NDM. The JD (U) got three and the Samata Party one. Independent candidates accounted for four seats.

The Election Commission has “withheld” results of elections to two seats, Pungro-Kiphire and Arkakong, for entirely different reasons. Discrepancies were reportedly found between the number of votes polled and the strength of the electorate in Arkakong.

The BJP candidate was leading the field during the last round of counting in Kiphire when unidentified people torched the additional deputy commissioner’s office. This prompted officials to call a halt to counting. A team from the Election Commission will take a decision on the issue on Friday.

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