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Ex-Rio adviser rejoins Cong

Kohima, March 10: Neiphiu Rio’s former political adviser joined the Congress today but denied that a rift with the Nagaland chief minister prompted him to take the step.

“Yes I have decided to rejoin the Congress,” Z. Lohe said today. He said there was no dispute with Rio though he was denied a Naga People’s Front (NPF) ticket in the Assembly election. “I was denied a ticket therefore I left the party,” he added.

Lohe has been replaced with former PCC president and former Congress Lok Sabha MP Chingwang Konyak.

Interestingly, since 2003, all advisers of Rio were former Congress leaders. Lohe was also a former Speaker of the state Assembly during S.C. Jamir’s regime as chief minister. He joined the NPF after he was denied a Congress ticket in the 2008 state general election. During that short period with Rio, he never criticised the Congress. Lohe was all praise for Jamir when the latter was chief minister and was too critical of the Naga political issue.

Congress sources said Rio’s former aide was likely to campaign for the Congress candidate in the coming Lok Sabha poll. “I am yet to be approached by them but let’s see how they would work out the programme,” Lohe said.

He did not rule out campaigning for Congress candidate K.V. Pusa who is also his old friend. Congress sources said Lohe might campaign for Pusa in Phek district, a strong bastion of the NPF.

The poll plank for the Congress will be graft, bad governance and the Naga political issue. State Congress leaders are currently in New Delhi to meet the party high command to finalise strategies for the elections in the NPF-dominated state.

Several NPF leaders such as party president Shur-hozelie Liezietsu, Speaker Chotisuh Sazo and others had recently met Congress candidate Pusa to reach a consensus regarding the candidature of chief minister Rio, who will be contesting as NPF’s candidate supported by the BJP, JD (U) and NCP.

The Congress has shot down NPF’s request to support Rio. So far, the Congress and the NPF have declared the names of their candidates.