Dimapur, Sept. 20: Nagaland home minister Neiphiu Rio today quit the Congress government in protest against chief minister S.C. Jamir’s “autocratic style of functioning”.
Announcing his resignation at a news conference in Kohima, Rio levelled a host of allegations against Jamir, ranging from “one-family rule” to “acting against the interests of the Nagas”. Coming as it does just a few months before Assembly elections, Rio’s rebellion is a severe blow to the chief minister.
“I am at a constraint to continue as a minister in your council of ministers and hereby tender my resignation with immediate effect,” Rio said in his resignation letter addressed to Jamir. “I cannot support Jamir’s policies as they are not consistent, nor in the best interests of the Nagas,” he later told The Telegraph over phone from his official residence.
Jamir lost no time in returning the fire, accusing the home minister of wallowing in insecurity. “Rio appears to be worried over the possibility of losing his place in the Congress party before the forthcoming elections,” he said.
The chief minister had convened a meeting of his council of ministers immediately after receiving the resignation letter.
On Rio’s allegation of autocracy, Jamir said there was no question of imposing his decisions on the party. “The Congress party in Nagaland takes all important decisions, whether in the party forum or in the Cabinet, in accordance with the principles of collective responsibility.”
Rio had given a hint of what was to come while addressing the gathering at a school function in the state capital this morning. At around the same time, Jamir was attending a public meeting at Kushiabill in Dimapur.
“S.C Jamir’s style of functioning is autocratic, as if he is running a dictatorship. We have witnessed the concept of one-family rule imposed on party legislators and Nagas, leading to favouritism, injustice and complete absence of transparency and accountability,” Rio said.
He accused the chief minister of not taking the party into confidence before releasing his booklet, The Bedrock of Naga Society. “This act portrayed in no uncertain terms his self-drawn conclusions and vision of the fate of the Naga people,” the disgruntled leader said.
“What the Nagas need today is a negotiated settlement with the government of India. To secure it, we have to present our case in one voice. But the state government stands in the way, with Jamir setting various conditions. The only condition the Nagas should have is that the solution should be acceptable to all underground Naga national workers and Naga society.”
Rio, who was elected to the Assembly from Northern Angami II constituency, had come to be known as the “second-in-command” in the Congress government.
But he has not been in the chief minister’s good books for quite some time now. When Jamir dropped power minister K. Therie from his ministry, there was talk of the move being a warning to his “bosom friend”.
Rio first contested the Northern Angami II seat as an Independent candidate in 1987, but failed to make the cut. He won the same seat on a Congress ticket in 1989, 1993 and 1998.