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Nagaland BJP sends feelers to JD-U MLA

Kohima, June 17: The political winds in Nagaland are changing since the BJP acquired a thumping mandate in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

After yesterday’s defection of three Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators to the BJP with their supporters, it could now be the turn of the Janata Dal (United). All three are partners in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN).

While the NCP did not have pre-poll alliance with DAN and joined it post 2013 Assembly elections, the BJP and JD (U) were pre-poll partners in DAN along with the Naga People’s Front (NPF).

Sources said the BJP was in contact with the lone JD (U) legislator, B.S. Nganlang, who represents Tamlu constituency, and had received the green signal from him.

Both the BJP and the JD(U) had won one seat each in the 2013 elections. With NCP members T.M. Lotha, a former home minister, Imtilemba Sangtam, state unit president of the NCP, and Mhonlumo Kikon joining the BJP last evening, the BJP now has four MLAs and the NCP one.

NCP legislator Khumo Khiam has not joined the bandwagon.

His former colleagues said the reason could be religious extremism or that he does not want to “displease his supporters”. Nagaland is a Christian-dominated state and some people are apprehensive about the BJP’s “Hindu right-wing” ideology.

The new BJP entrants said they would focus on the welfare of the people. They hoped that joining the BJP would give them ample opportunity to carry the voices of the people in the Assembly and at the Centre. They hoped Khiam would soon join them to strengthen the DAN government led by chief minister T.R. Zeliang.

Lotha and Sangtam, both of whom were BJP legislators in 2003, said joining the BJP would benefit the people of the state.

Lotha said NCP was not an alliance partner of the NDA at the Centre. Rejoining the BJP would help them strengthen DAN and seek financial assistance and greater development for the rapid progress of the state.

Sangtam said the NCP was almost wiped off in the state is all its office-bearers and party functionaries had joined the BJP.

The BJP’s state unit president, N. Chuba Ao, said, “Khumo’s not joining us is a loss.”

The 60-member Assembly now has 44 DAN legislators (NPF 38, BJP 4, JD(U) 1, NCP 1), eight Independents supporting DAN and eight Congress MLAs. One source did not rule out some Congress MLAs joining the BJP.

The NPF is closely monitoring the developments, as the BJP’s expanding numbers could pose a threat to it. Last month’s ministerial reshuffle by Zeliang has left some NPF members disgruntled. Several NPF members are still not happy with the allocation of portfolios and have demanded a review.

NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu said his party would review the allocation of portfolios.