New Delhi, June 9: Nagaland MP Neiphiu Rio has dismissed reports that his party, the Naga People’s Front, will join the Opposition in Parliament.
Rio said he suspected detractors were attempting to spread rumours to alienate smaller parties. “I was surprised to know the NPF’s name was being included in a federal front in opposition to the BJP. The NPF had declared support to the NDA much before the elections,” Rio told The Telegraph.
At a gathering of MPs last week, he urged Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow smaller parties more time. Time allotted to political parties for speaking in the Lok Sabha is calculated on the party’s size in the House.
There was considerable speculation in the capital that parties like the Trinamul Congress, AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal, along with other smaller parties, would form a federal front. Rio stressed that he had nothing to do with such a move, if any.
Having lost out on a ministerial berth, Rio does not want to lose space in the ruling coalition. Clearly under pressure since late last week, Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and is believed to have conveyed continued support from the NPF.
Rio had abdicated his position in favour of Zeliang following his election as MP. The former chief minister, along with former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma, was left out of the council of ministers.
“I can very well work as an MP,” he said. When asked if he would once again request the Prime Minister, Rio seemed mindful of Modi’s aversion to perceived lobbying. “It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative, I have not met him,” he said.
“My priority is to help in the speedy resolution of the Naga political issue,” said Rio, recalling that the previous government did not use an opportunity to resolve the problem. “The underground (rebels) have already submitted their proposal to the government; it is up to the government now to talk to people, civil society groups and come up with a settlement,” he said.
Rio iterated he would continue to play the facilitator as he had played in Nagaland to help reconcile differences among rebel outfits.
Concurrent on his list is development for not only Nagaland but the entire Northeast.
He said connectivity and institutional capacity building are lacking in the region.
His demands were reflected in President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint session of Parliament today.
The President has said the Centre would lay special emphasis on improving the intra-region connectivity and border infrastructure in the Northeast as well as in Jammu and Kashmir.
Rio hopes that with his presence in Delhi, he would be able to push the Centre in getting adequate funds to help development schemes in the state, as roads and civic amenities are wanting in Nagaland.