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Pandey exit lands Delhi in dilemma

- Cloud on NSCN-IM talks

New Delhi, Dec. 23: The BJP getting a potential candidate for Bihar’s Valmikinagar Lok Sabha seat recently seems to have impacted a peace initiative in the Northeast.

Unwilling as it is, the Centre may have to get a new interlocutor for talks with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) as former Nagaland chief secretary R.S. Pandey has resigned from the post. He joined the BJP on December 12.

Top government sources said the resignation had not been accepted and the Centre is in a dilemma. “The resignation has to be accepted at the highest level (Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde),” said a top official.

A source said North Block is considering if Pandey could be asked to continue for a few months, negotiation with the NSCN (I-M), that is at a crucial juncture, may be possible.

That, however, may not fructify. “I have joined the BJP and would be busy in Valmikinagar constituency to which I belong. First, the BJP would have to field me, but at least I have to spend time there,” Pandey, who joined the BJP along with former Union home secretary R.K. Singh this month, told The Telegraph. Valmikinagar is on the Nepal border and was created in 2008 following delimitation of constituencies. Janata Dal (United)’s Baidyanath Prasad Mahto had a resounding victory in 2009 with support from the BJP, then an ally.

This time around, Pandey will have an uphill task competing with the former ally.

That appeared to be the principal reason why Pandey is unwilling to continue as the negotiator for the Naga talks. “I am going (to work in Bihar), I cannot continue (as an interlocutor),” he said, conceding that the NSCN (I-M) top leaders did get in touch with him after he sent his resignation to Union home secretary Anil Goswami. Since his joining the BJP, there have been no talks with the Naga leaders, Pandey said.

A senior official said the government would have liked Pandey not to leave so abruptly. Officials said no search had begun as hope hinged on Pandey’s continuance. But as general elections are only months away and Pandey deciding to return home after four decades in the bureaucracy in Nagaland and New Delhi, the search for a new interlocutor may begin soon.

“Somebody who is knowledgeable about the area and who knows the situation will have to be there. The talks are at a crucial juncture and if they can sort it out it will be good,” Pandey said. There was hope in the air that an understanding was being reached with the militant outfit. However, if the government does not find an interlocutor, the negotiations could lose momentum.