Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Centre today turned down Nagaland legislators’ proposal for an interim government and Manipur’s demand for introducing the inner-line permit system.
“Under the Constitution we cannot have an interim government,” Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters here when asked about progress in the Naga talks.
In a terse message to the Congress-led Manipur, he said, “Our Constitution will not allow such things. Any sensible person who believes in the Constitution will not pass such a bill.”
A visiting delegation of all the 60 legislators of Nagaland, led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, had informed the Centre on August 7 that they were ready to “step down” to pave the way for a government constituted by rebels and civil society groups.
Although Rio’s offer was purportedly related to the talks with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), which are at a crucial juncture, he obviously did not forget that the state is poll-bound early next year.
Rio’s offer to step down and give rebels a chance to form the government follows the Mizoram model. Lalthan-hawla had stepped down in 1983 after the Mizo Accord was signed during the tenure of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi so that Mizo National Front leader Laldenga could become the chief minister.
However, this scenario is possible only if a solution is hammered out with the NSCN (I-M) this season. Rio’s proposal was that the elections should not be held at all. Instead, a solution should be worked out and an interim government put in place.
There is uncertainty about the talks though. “The interlocutor is talking,” said Shinde. Former Nagaland chief secretary R.S. Pandey is engaged in informal discussions with the NSCN (I-M) while the outfit has begun consultations within its ranks to decide on the final shape of a settlement. Sources in the outfit said deliberations with civil society groups might commence soon. If the Rio-led Naga Peoples Front (NPF) has elections on its mind, so does the Congress, which has fared badly in the state for the past two terms, much to the chagrin of the central leadership. Shinde’s statement may put an end to speculation and Rio may not be able to use the move as an election gambit.
After Rio’s proposal, Shinde had also discussed Nagaland’s political affairs with S.C. Jamir, former chief minister of the state and a veteran Congress leader.
Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh had apparently given in to an agitation in Imphal valley in asking for the inner-line permit (ILP) system. The Assembly had also passed a private members bill moved by three Trinamul legislators on July 13 in this regard. Going by Shinde’s assertion today, the bill will not get presidential assent.
The ILP system has been in place in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873. Under the system, any Indian citizen, not a resident of these states, needs a permit from state authorities to enter the state.
Shinde’s message to Ibobi Singh is also significant, as it ratifies his comments on the Raj Thackeray-Nitish Kumar tiff over Biharis in Mumbai.
The home minister was noncommittal on what action he would take against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) but made a political point based on constitutional rights.
“Every person has a right to live anywhere, work anywhere in this country and express his or her ideas,” Shinde said when asked about the MNS chief’s controversial statement about issuing permits in Mumbai to people coming from Bihar.
In Manipur, the concerns are more related to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants against whom civil society groups and even militant groups have decided to act. The ILP system will, however, have an impact on labourers migrating from elsewhere in the country to Manipur.