Explained: Why Nagaland Is Left With No Opposition Parties For The Second Consecutive Time

Explained: Why Nagaland Is Left With No Opposition Parties For The Second Consecutive Time

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Saturday, March 11, 2023 12:10 PM IST
Explained: Why Nagaland Is Left With No Opposition Parties For The Second Consecutive TimeNagaland CM Neiphiu Rio
  • The allied parties had stated that their move (to join the UDA) was motivated by the need to present a united political front to help resolve the ‘Naga political issue’. 

    The real reason for all the parties and independent MLAs to join the ruling dispensation, say political observers, lies elsewhere. 

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) comprising the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the BJP won 37 of the 60 seats in the Nagaland Assembly in the just-concluded elections. 

That put the alliance, which had ruled the state for five years since 2018, in a comfortable majority and it did not need the support of any MLA to form the government. 

However, immediately after the results were declared on 2 March, the four independent legislators declared support for the UDA. 

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which had emerged as the third largest party (after the NDPP and the BJP) with seven MLAs, was next to announce its support to the UDA. 

In a classic example of ideological jugglery, NCP chief Sharad Pawar endorsed the move, arguing that the Nagaland unit of his party had extended support to the NDPP and not the BJP!

The National People's Party (led by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma), which is a member of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and has five MLAs in the Nagaland Assembly had, by then, pledged its support to the UDA. 

So had the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) and the Republican Party of India (Athwale) with two MLAs each. The Janata Dal (United) with one MLA was next, but the move miffed party supremo and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who disbanded the state unit of his party. 

That left only the Naga People's Front (NPF) with two MLAs in the opposition. Feeling quite left out, the NPF announced that it would be willing to join the UDA if invited.

Achumbemo Kikon, one of the two NPF MLAs, said that his party was part of the UDA in the last term of the Assembly and would be willing to join the ruling alliance for the “greater interest of Nagas”. 

The NPF, incidentally, was the senior partner in the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) which included the BJP and ruled Nagaland between 2003 and 2018. The NPF is part of the BJP-led ruling alliance in neighbouring Manipur. 

Talks between the NDPP and NPF leaders held earlier this week were successful and the NPF announced it would join the UDA. With this, all 60 MLAs of the Nagaland Assembly are part of the ruling dispensation. 

This is, however, the second time that there will be no opposition in Nagaland. The NPF, which had emerged as the single largest party in the 2018 elections (but the government was formed by the NDPP-BJP combine), joined the ruling alliance in July 2021. 

The NPF had then stated that its move (to join the ruling alliance) was motivated by the need to present a united political front to help resolve the ‘Naga political issue’. 

The ongoing talks between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) as well as other Naga insurgent groups is referred to as talks to resolve the ‘Naga political issue’. 

“Talks to resolve the Naga political issue are at a final stage now and for the greater interests of the Nagas, it is necessary to present a united political face. A ‘Naga unity’ government which has all elected MLAs as its members is necessary and will facilitate the early and smooth resolution of the Naga political issue,” said the NPF leadership. 

The jumbo UDA coalition (with all 60 MLAs) had posed one problem for chief minister Neiphiu Rio. Given that the strength of the Assembly is 60, the size of the ministry can only be 12 (one-fifth of the total strength of the Assembly).

Thus, along with two deputy chief ministers, Nagaland has only nine other ministers. 

Rio got around this problem by 24 MLAs as ‘advisors’ to various departments. The number of ‘advisors’, who are accorded the status of cabinet ministers or ministers of state — they are thus entitled to the same salaries and other perks as ministers — will go up. 

But the real reason for all the parties and Independent MLAs to join the ruling dispensation, say political observers, lies elsewhere. 

“Nagaland is a state with scarce resources and though it does get substantial funds from the federal government for development and welfare projects, that money is never enough. Most of the funds go to constituencies represented by ruling alliance MLAs. Thus, all MLAs want to be part of the ruling dispensation to claim their share of the development pie,” explained a former MLA who did not wish to be named. 

A former Congress Minister who has retired from active politics said that with limited resources, it is natural for any government to accord priority in allocation of funds to constituencies of the ruling MLAs. 

“There is very little allocated to constituencies represented by Opposition MLAs, who then have to face the ire of the people of their constituencies for failing to bring in development projects" said the former minister.

"MLAs want to be re-elected and want to present a respectable report card while seeking re-election. Hence the tendency to be part of the ruling alliance in order to get projects for their constituencies,” he added. 

But this ‘opposition-less’ Assembly has its fair share of critics. Many civil society leaders point out that checks and balances are necessary in a democracy.

The haste shown by MLAs of other parties to join the ruling UDA made a mockery of democracy and constituted a grave disrespect of the people’s mandate, say many. 

Various academics and civil society leaders who spoke to Swarajya said that without an effective opposition, the ruling alliance cannot be held accountable.

This lack of accountability will lead to more corruption and abuse of power, and will have grave consequences on the polity, they said. 

They also said that while Nagas want a resolution of the ‘Naga political issue’, they also want good governance, accountability, transparency and decision-making through consensus. Only a strong opposition can ensure this. 

Many also say that the real reason behind the MLAs of parties like the NCP and NPF joining the ruling alliance is their quest for power and wealth. An ‘opposition-less’ political landscape is unhealthy and undesirable, they say. 

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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