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Rio inches towards LS candidature

- DAN coordination meeting today

Kohima, Feb. 19: The decks have been almost cleared for chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s candidature for the Lok Sabha election despite differences within his party, the Naga People’s Front, and other constituents of the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland over the matter.

NPF leaders remained tight-lipped but sources said there were arguments for and against Rio’s candidature at a marathon meeting of the NPF at the party’s central office here today.

Rio has been hobnobbing with top BJP leaders who have reportedly assured him of a cabinet berth if the NDA forms the government but also wants to keep his options open of resigning from Parliament to retain his post of chief minister if the NDA does not come to power.

The idea, however, has triggered mixed reactions in the NPF. While some partymen want Rio to remain in the state and keep the flock together, others do not want him to return to state politics whether the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes to power or not.

In a meeting held last year, senior cabinet ministers like Imkong L. Imchen and Khuzoluzo Nienu had opposed Rio going to Delhi on the ground that the party would become shaky and might suffer a split. They said Rio has more assignments in the state than in Delhi. DAN allies, the BJP and the JD (U), had also insisted that Rio should remain the chief minister for a third term.

Rio, however, kept his options open, which has reportedly not found favour with some NPF functionaries and cabinet ministers.

An NPF insider said Rio’s name has been almost cleared for the Lok Sabha election with those who want him to contest the Parliament poll saying that he has a bigger role to play in the national politics. He, however, did not disclose the details of the closed-door meeting.

Of the 20 DAN legislators from Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation, 19 are supporting Rio’s candidature.

A coordination meeting of DAN will be held here tomorrow to discuss the matter.

Sources said the name of planning and coordination minister T.R. Zeliang was doing the rounds for the post of chief minister and that of PHE minister Noke Konyak for deputy chief minister.