As Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as a measure to curb black money, BJP's Nagaland unit went vocal against its long-time ally in the state government Naga People’s Front (NPF) alleging corruption in governance.
The BJP leadership in Nagaland placed a memorandum in the hands of the state's governor on 10 November alleging "misgovernance and misdeeds" by the state government, a move seen not only in tandem with the Prime Minister’s war against black money but also in that with the present political circumstances in the state.
Sceptics raised questions as to what good will it bring to the party if the bitterness leads to a breakup with its ally NPF, and that too at a time when BJP has hardly any presence in the state with only four MLAs in a house of 60? Also, Nagaland being a Christian majority state, what better future does the saffron party can expect than enjoying power by remaining an ally in the NPF-led government, as it is doing now?
Though such questions do not sound entirely outlandish, the emerging political realities in the north-eastern states are enhancing BJP's sphere as a political liberty in a sustained manner which in turn has emboldened the party to take counter-intuitive political moves.
The party’s success so far in providing the state of Assam with a corruption-free government has emitted positive vibes throughout the region. The move to jail Rakesh Pal, the controversial Chairman of Assam Public Service Commission for his alleged role in a job scam was a major image booster for the party.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s success in maintaining his image as an Assamese leader rather than a Hindu leader so far has spread the message even in Christian majority states like Nagaland that there is a growing need to review the common perspective towards the BJP.
The last and the most important part was the central government’s move to develop Assam’s transport infrastructure with a gigantic fund of Rs 1 lakh crore. This recent declaration made by Nitin Gadkari has raised enthusiasm levels in the region.
There are also some state-level factors that seemed to have influence BJP’s Nagaland chapter to take this drastic step against NPF. The NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government which has been ruling the state for a third consecutive term is facing strong anti-incumbency current against it. Even Governor PB Acharya expressed his displeasure over rampant corruption in all sectors.
A BJP leader in the state, on the condition of anonymity, told Firstpost that it is no longer in the interest of the party to continue the alliance with NPF. "But any decision, leading to the BJP pulling out from the government has to be taken by the central leadership. We do not want to be seen under the same light as the NPF,” he said.
Mutual distrust, however, has been lurking behind the scene for a long time between both the allies. It could be sensed when a BJP MLA was suddenly sacked from the post of Parliamentary Secretary for his alleged anti-DAN activities on 28 October by Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang.
The rift that has led both the allies to a near-breaking point, has emerged at a time when the NPF itself is going through a phase of uncertainty on account of dissidence within the party. Earlier this year the party suspended Neiphiu Rio, Member of Parliament and former Chief Minister of Nagaland, alleging anti-party activities.
Rio was suspended on account of his role in the dissidence that shook the NPF government led by TR Zeliang at the beginning of 2016. But Zeliang was smart enough to knit an all-party government and continued to be in power.
“Repeated effort to patch up the discord between Rio and Zeliang has failed. It is difficult to estimate where the party is heading,” says a Naga intellectual.
Even though the NPF leadership has been claiming that there is no more dissidence left in the party, many in the state BJP feel that they are on a sinking boat.
Moreover, some of the leaders in the state BJP have been urging the national leadership to get in touch with the dissident group led by Rio and induct his faction of NPF MLAs in BJP and strengthen the party’s prospect in the assembly election due in 2018.
“It's the right time for us to take advantage of the rift and move ahead to form a BJP-led government in Nagaland,” says the BJP leader.
BJP lacks the number of leaders to represent from various constituencies of the state, a situation it faced also in Assam before 2016 Assembly Election. The Nagaland BJP seeks to apply the same formula to win over Nagaland by inducting leaders from the ruling party, as it did in Assam.
Hence, it was not surprising to see the BJP going vocal against its ally that is fast losing its glitter. But, how does the party move ahead to meet its expected goal from now on will determine the party’s future in the state.