Nagaland polls: NPF's KG Kenye on ruling party's split with BJP, infighting and shifting political dynamics of state

The BJP has snapped its ties with the ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) in Nagaland only to enter into a seat-sharing agreement with the newly-formed National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), led by former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. This move has changed the dynamics of Naga politics ahead of the upcoming election.

Soon after the new alliance was announced, the Church came down heavily upon the BJP. This was seen as an impediment to its growth in the state. The party had made significant inroads given its claim of furthering the Naga peace process and giving it a desirable shape.

File image of NPF's secretary general and Rajya Sabha member KG Kenye.  Source: screengrab of the video interview

File image of NPF's secretary general and Rajya Sabha member KG Kenye. Source: screengrab of the video interview

In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, NPF's secretary general and Rajya Sabha member KG Kenye spoke about his party's stand in the complicated political situation in the state, the Naga Peace Accord, and its severed alliance with BJP.

Edited excerpts follow:

The BJP and Congress are both taking credit for furthering the Naga peace talks, that appear to be headed towards completion. What's NPF's stand amidst these claims and counter-claims?
NPF's main political agenda has always been a peaceful and amicable solution of the Naga political problem. For other parties, this may be a new thing but NPF was born because of this very issue. The party has been upholding this cause since 1963. It is the only political party in India which has the Naga peace agenda in its constitution. But come election time, every party places this agenda in its manifesto.

That being said, NPF, of course, is not a national party and has never been in power at the Centre. We acknowledge whatever credit is due to them (the national parties) for taking up the issue.

Recently, the Church has questioned the secular credentials of the BJP. The party has been in alliance with the NPF for the last 15 years. What is your take on this recent development?
We cannot force anyone to follow or not follow the policies of a political party. Yes, we have been in alliance with the BJP but we have never entered into a seat-sharing agreement with them. This time, the NDPP has entered into a seat-sharing agreement with the BJP. Maybe this is the reason behind many of the electorates' and the Church's apprehensions. Seat sharing is seen as a deep-rooted relationship.

Do you also think that the Church leaders are justified in their apprehension?
Given the recent string of incidents in mainland India, I don't blame them for having such apprehensions. Maybe because of the experience of the Church, such apprehensions have crept into their minds.

If required in the future, to form a government in Nagaland, will NPF be open to an alliance with the BJP again?
It is too early to say anything about it now, especially after they have snubbed us. After going through this, we will have to be more careful about any future alliance with the BJP.

In recent times, we saw that NPF break into two factions – one led by Chief Minister TR Zeliang and the other by party chief Shurhozelie Liezietsu. Reports now suggest that the Zeliang faction still wants an alliance with BJP...
Yes, there were differences within our party. In fact, since 2014, we have been going through it. But now, adequate precaution has been taken so that no such situation arises again. It is not the party infighting that is behind the differences but it is rather a spillover from the government.

Integration of a few territories in the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with that of Nagaland – the Naga Integration – has been one of the key agendas of your party. In the ongoing talks, Centre has ruled out the possibility of Naga peace talks. Do you think that your party now needs to recalibrate its agenda given the new situation?
It was the aspiration of the people. We as a party only raised the voice and provided the platform. The final say will rest with the Naga people. We are a people's party and will act according to the wishes of the people. What people want is yet to be seen.

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 14:05:45 IST

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