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Rio’s LS plan divides JD-U

- Nagaland agog with CM’s decision to contest, Tripura PCC tests waters

Kohima, Feb. 18: A rift has appeared in the Nagaland unit of the JD (U) on whether or not to support chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s candidacy for a Lok Sabha seat from the state.

JD (U) state president Mhonchan Lotha said he was in favour of backing Rio but another group of the party has urged alliance partners of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), including the Naga People’s Front, to field a JD (U) candidate.

Mhonchan said this group was more worried about the JD (U)’s national prospects rather than strengthening the ruling DAN alliance in the state.

The BJP and JD (U) have one legislator each in the DAN government. Both parties have expressed their desire to field their candidates for the lone Lok Sabha seat from the state.

The BJP said it had not decided on whether or not to support Rio but the party’s state unit president, N. Chuba Ao, said Rio had sought the BJP’s support but Ao had told him that it would be better if he continued as chief minister.

Rio has said he wants to contest the Lok Sabha polls to secure more funds and projects for the state and to expedite the ongoing Naga peace process.

The BJP has reportedly assured Rio of a ministerial berth if it comes to power. But in case that doesn’t happen, Rio might remain chief minister and resign from the Lok Sabha. Some NPF members do not like this proposed scenario.

NPF sources said Rio was given a mandate to lead the people as chief minister. They did not rule out a rift in the party if Rio leaves for New Delhi.

A source said the JD (U) high command had decided to support Rio as a consensus candidate. Party spokesman Sushil Kumar confirmed this. “We have already decided to support Rio,” he said.

Kumar alleged that some people from the NPF could be trying to create a rift in the DAN because several people are interested in contesting the Lok Sabha polls.

“Some people from the NPF could be playing a dirty game,” he said. Kumar said a clear picture would emerge only after the DAN co-ordination meeting scheduled on February 20.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has four legislators, also said were undecided on supporting Rio for the Lok Sabha polls.