Shillong, Sept. 16: Intended to be a regrouping exercise, the first North Eastern Congress Co-ordination Committee conclave in two years witnessed more acrimony than unity on the first day with former Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir blaming the high command’s complacency for the BJP’s surge in the region.
AICC leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Mohsina Kidwai tried hard to shift the focus of the meeting to less contentious topics, but Jamir brooked no stopping.
In contrast to Meghalaya chief minister D.D. Lapang’s paeans to the glorious history of the Congress in the Northeast, Jamir said the party should look within instead of outside to find out what was wrong.
The former chief minister said the AICC had long been indifferent to the problems of the party in Nagaland, waking up only when the BJP orchestrated a political coup in Arunachal Pradesh.
“The dangerous political trend was started by the BJP and its allies during the election in Nagaland. We came up with a white paper on this to facilitate a debate in Parliament, but there was no response from the AICC. The high command woke up only when the same thing happened in Arunachal Pradesh.”
Attributing the Congress’ electoral debacle in Nagaland to the involvement of militants in the poll, the veteran politician said: “During the election, it was the hand (the Congress symbol) versus the AK-47. The BJP has announced a Rs 365-crore peace bonus. The money is actually meant for toppling governments and buying legislators.”
Jamir said the Congress high command’s response to political developments in the Northeast was less than adequate. “Sometimes, I feel dejected at the attitude of the high command,” he said.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang had quit the Congress to form the Arunachal Congress after a similar outburst several years ago.
Suggesting an aggressive approach, Jamir said the Congress needed to swing into action if it wanted to prevent the BJP from making further inroads into its bastions in the Northeast. “Our policy should be tit-for-tat and an eye for an eye, not mere lip service or sermons. Let us talk less and work more.”
Mukherjee, who spoke next, struggled to frame a suitable response to Jamir’s unexpected tirade against the high command. He said the AICC was aware of what was happening in the Northeast and would not allow the BJP to get away with political skulduggery.