Kohima/Guwahati, Feb. 21: Defence minister George Fernandes and BJP president Venkaiah Naidu will lead a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) starburst in Nagaland tomorrow, barely a week after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi visited the state to prop up chief minister S.C. Jamir’s electoral campaign.
Fernandes and Naidu will visit four districts in as many hours. A helicopter has been requisitioned from 8 am to 11.30 am to shuttle between the venues of the election rallies. The duo is scheduled to make tours of two other poll-bound states, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Apart from addressing rallies, Naidu is expected to review the electoral prospects of BJP candidates in the constituencies where the party could not reach an understanding with its allies in the nascent Democratic Alliance of Nagaland.
Before leaving for Nagaland, the BJP chief told newspersons in Guwahati that the state unit of the party had been asked to review the strengths of these candidates by February 23 and, if necessary, ask some to withdraw from the race.
“We want only candidates with the potential to win to represent the alliance,” he said.
On whether the BJP was sure of bettering its record in Nagaland, Naidu said it would definitely improve upon its past electoral performances in all three northeastern states that will go to the hustings on February 26. “We will ensure that non-Congress governments are formed in Nagaland and Meghalaya. As for Tripura, we will definitely make an entry into the Assembly.”
Reiterating his party’s commitment to bring about “peace and development” in the troubled Northeast, the BJP president said the people of the region should realise that the Centre’s co-operation is crucial to the development of any state. “The BJP-led NDA government is here to stay; so it is essential to have governments that are friendly with the Centre.”
Naidu said the NDA government’s initiative for peace had brought it closer to the people of the region. “The Centre’s desire to develop the Northeast was manifested in the creation of a separate ministry for the region. It obviously did not go unnoticed.”
The BJP chief claimed that the people’s perception about the BJP, especially in Nagaland, had changed over the past couple of years.
On allegations by Jamir that the NSCN (I-M) had thrown its weight behind Opposition candidates, Naidu sarcastically remarked that the chief minister must have made such an assumption because he believed in such tactics. “He must have used the services of militants to come to power. Why else would he think of such things'” he asked.
Naidu said Jamir had probably realised that he was going to lose the elections. “There are strong anti-Congress and anti-Jamir feelings in the state,” he added.
The chief minister had said immediately after the ban on the NSCN (I-M) lapsed that the outfit would interfere in the electoral process with the objective of ousting the Congress.
In a recent letter to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, the PCC said even the chairman of the ceasefire monitoring group was allowing the NSCN (I-M) to have its way. Hokheto Sumi, working president of the PCC, said the outfit was the biggest threat to the democratic process.
The ruling party yesterday again alleged that NSCN (I-M) kilo kilonser (home minister) A.K. Lungaleng had asked members of the Kohima village council to help the Nagaland People’s Front.
As the BJP and the Congress sparred with each other, people across Nagaland complained of problems in commuting from one place to another because of excessive requisition of taxis for the elections.