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Delhi on mind, Rio in Lok Sabha poll fray

Kohima, Jan. 28: Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, who has been too vocal on the Naga political issue, has decided to quit state and join national politics.

Rio has already expressed his inclination to contest the Lok Sabha elections but his party and coalition partners of the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) has requested him to carry on with the mantle of the state.

DAN said Rio has much responsibility in the state than in Delhi, besides his being in Kohima would help in keeping the alliance intact. Even the NPF is quite apprehensive that the party would become shaky if Rio goes to Delhi.

The Opposition Congress said the NPF is surviving because of Rio.

According to sources, Rio has decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls despite strong opposition from his party.

The chief minister’s office did not refute the report but said the NPF would announce its candidature at an appropriate time. The CMO also indicated change of guard in the state politics, adding that the party would remain strong even if Rio goes to Delhi.

Sources have indicated that T.R. Zeliang, minister for planning and co-ordination, might be the next chief minister and Noke Konyak, minister for public health engineering, the deputy chief minister.

Sources said the name of Zeliang was doing the rounds, as his reputation is clean. “He is so far not a controversial person. He has a clean record,” a source said.

NPF insiders were hopeful that Zeliang has become a matured politician who can lead the DAN government in all situations. Both Rio and Zeliang were strong Congressmen prior to 2003. Zeliang was also a member of the Rajya Sabha after he joined the NPF.

Elevating Noke to deputy chief minister is being aimed at garnering support and appease the people of eastern Nagaland, who have been demanding a separate state. The demand has been rejected both by the state government and the Centre.

Of late, Rio has been meeting BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi. According to a source, Modi had promised Rio of early settlement of the Naga political problem if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) forms the government at the Centre.

NPF sources were hopeful that the NDA would come to power and Rio would be inducted into the cabinet.

Nagaland has a seat each in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.