Rio eyes ministerial berth in NDA

Rio eyes ministerial berth in NDA

 Neiphiu Rio is the only chief minister other than Narendra Modi to join the battle of ballots to win a seat in the nation’s 16th Lok Sabha.

If the chief minister of Gujarat dreams to be the prime minister of “One India, Great India”, Rio, who has been at the helm in Nagaland since 2003, dreams of “One Nagaland”. 

Rio wants to be a minister in the government that Modi hopes to lead at the Centre and fast-track the much-delayed process to settle the Naga issue.

Rio will be contesting the polls as the candidate of the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) and appears to be the BJP’s best bet in the North-East.

Ever since he broke away from the Congress to float the NPF in 2003, the regional party has been winning every election in Nagaland and the Congress has been on decline.

“The Congress-led government at the Centre demonstrated no political will to resolve the Naga issue in the past 10 years,” Rio says, as he seeks vote from the people for the lone Parliamentary constituency in Nagaland.

He quotes BJP president Rajnath Singh assuring him that the issue would be resolved expeditiously when the National Democratic Alliance government would come to power at the Centre.

Congress candidate K V Pusa, however, says that it was Rio’s insincerity that delayed the peace process between the Centre and the Naga rebel organisations.
To strike a chord with the majority Christian population of Nagaland, the state Congress also criticised Rio for joining hands with “communal forces” like the BJP and its mentor the RSS.

An unfazed Rio invokes the 1984 anti-Sikh riots to strike back and goes on to defend Modi for the 2002 communal flare up in Gujarat. Since 1997, the Union government has been engaged in peace-parleys with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN-IM), which now spearheads the more than six-decade-long insurgency by the Nagas.

Though the NSCN-IM has climbed down from its demand for sovereignty, a solution remained elusive as the outfit was steadfast on its demand to merge all Naga-inhabited areas of Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh into a single political entity.

This is a demand which is overwhelmingly supported not only by the ruling NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, but also by other political parties as well as civil society organisations in the state.

The issue has triggered strong protests from the majority Meiteis in Manipur and non-Naga communities in Arunachal Pradesh.

 The NPF has fielded Soso Lorho in Naga-inhabited Outer Manipur constituency. Rio’s call for “emotional integrity” of all Nagas during a rally in support of Lorho triggered sharp protests from the ruling Congress and other political parties in Manipur.

Meiteis perceived Rio’s interests in the politics beyond Nagaland and his call for ‘”emotional integrity” of all Nagas as a precursor to a greater push to slice out Naga-inhabited districts of Manipur and merge them with Nagaland.

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