| Neiphiu Rio |
Kohima, Feb. 20: The Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) today officially decided to field chief minister Neiphiu Rio as its consensus candidate for the lone Lok Sabha seat from the state.
The constituent parties of the alliance — the NPF, BJP and the JD (U) — decided to field Rio as their consensus candidate for the Lok Sabha polls, despite opposition from a group of NPF leaders.
The chief minister has been insisting to his party and the ruling alliance members that he be nominated as the consensus candidate for the election.
A source said Rio has become a seasoned politician and he should be sent to New Delhi to speak for the Naga people. The chief minister has been regarded as an undisputed leader in the NPF by some of his close associates.
The alliance today urged other political parties to support their candidate. The meeting, however, did not discuss about who would succeed Rio if he gets a berth in Parliament.
“We did not discuss about who would be the next chief minister,” a source said.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has four MLAs in the Nagaland Assembly, is likely to support the candidature of Rio after a meeting tomorrow. Former home minister and NCP legislator T.M. Lotha said they have convened a meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue. “We will extend support to Rio but have to first discuss the issue among ourselves” he said. The NCP has been extending outside support to the NPF-led DAN government.
With Rio set to fight for a Lok Sabha seat, it remains to be seen how the battle for the post of the chief minister unravels. Names like T.R. Zeliang, minister for planning and coordination, and home minister G. Kaito Ayeh are doing the rounds for the top post.
Minister for public health engineering Noke Konyak is in reckoning for the post of deputy chief minister — a possible arrangement to appease the people of eastern Nagaland, who have been demanding a separate state. Nineteen legislators from the region —which comprises four districts of Tuensang, Mon, Kiphire and Longleng — have extended support to Rio’s candidature.
The JD (U) insisted the next chief minister should focus more on economic development and welfare of the people. Spokesman for the party Sushil Kumar said successive governments have wasted money on issues, which did not serve the people. He highlighted the need to explore the mineral resources and generate employment for youths.
On the other hand, some NPF leaders are apprehensive that the party might collapse in the absence of Rio. A party insider said the chief minister would be responsible for any future adverse situation in the party. Some party members are reportedly unhappy with Rio’s “dictatorial” style of functioning.
Sources said any decision by Rio to come back to state politics would not be accepted by the alliance members or his party colleagues. “If he tries to return to state politics after the Lok Sabha polls, there will be problems in the NPF,” a DAN insider said.
Butsources said Rio has the option to join any front, including the Congress-led UPA, if the BJP-led NDA is not able to form the government at the Centre.