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Nagaland saw a ‘musical chairs’ game in 2017

 KOHIMA, Jan 3 - Nagaland witnessed violence in 2017 over the issue of urban local bodies with women quota, high political drama over leadership in the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and simmering tension along the border with Assam.

Following the announcement of election to ULBs with 33 per cent women reservation in the fag end of 2016, various tribal organisations resorted to threatening women candidates and also damaging their houses starting January 2, 2017.

Nonetheless, angered over the State Government’s decision to go ahead with women reservation in ULBs, menfolk took to the streets on January 31 night in Dimapur resulting in killing of two youths in alleged police firing.

This was followed by vandalism and arson in Kohima and Mokokchung district where government offices were burnt on February 2 while the State was in prolonged period of bandh.

Subsequently, the State Government had to declare the February ULB elections as null and void but the Joint Coordination Committee and Nagaland Tribes Action Committee demanded Chief Minister Zeliang to step down from chair.

Zeliang left with no option vacated the chair while the NPF brought in former Minister and party president Shurhozelie Liezietsu to mitigate the burning tension and he was sworn in as Chief Minister on February 22. However, despite a majority of MLAs preferring Liezietsu, his takeover was queered when Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio’s name was propped up by a section of NPF MLAs.

But leadership crisis within NPF legislators cropped up after four months, when Liezietsu announced his willingness to contest the bye-election to Northern Angami-I seat, which was vacated by his son Khriehu Liezietsu.

Zeliang along with 36 NPF MLAs camped at Kaziranga in Assam to stake claim to form his government on July 8. While Governor PB Acharya gave an opportunity to Liezietsu to prove his majority in the Assembly on July 19, but the latter did not make any move resulting in the dismissal of his government and installation of Zeliang as the Chief Minister for the second time.

Zeliang proved his majority in the Assembly on July 21 but the internal crisis deepened with Liezietsu expelling and suspending 36 NPF MLAs supporting Zeliang and Rio.

The NPF drama continued even in the court of law and also the Assembly Speaker seeking legal proceedings against each other, even to the extent of disqualification from Assembly.

Meanwhile, dissident legislators claiming to have the majority of the Central Executive Council of the party declared Rio as the new president of NPF.

They also held the NPF general convention in Dimapur on September 20 and submitted claims of party nomenclature and election symbol with Election Commission.

However, Election Commission wrote back to NPF led by Liezietsu asking that the matter be solved through a general convention as per the provisions of the party constitution.

Nonetheless, Zeliang and Liezietsu signed a memorandum of reconciliation on December 8 to give up the bitterness but come together considering the approaching solution of Naga political issue and also complying with the directive of ECI.

The change of guard for two times and frequent reshuffle in the Council of Ministers not only hampered the functioning of government departments but all the developmental activities for the year were brought to a standstill.

The year gone by also witnessed simmering tension between Nagaland and Assam on the border issue.

NSCN (K) ‘chairman’ SS Khaplang’s death in June was deeply mourned by the State. He was replaced by the banned group’s ‘vice chairman’ Khango Konyak.

On the long cherished aspiration of the people of the State for an early resolution of the Naga political issue, the Nagas and the State Government renewed hope that solution is fast approaching to conclusion. The Centre’s interlocutor RN Ravi during his visit to the State in July declared that solution to the decades-old crisis is close by.– PTI

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