The BJP on Saturday dug up the past to claim former prime minister Indira Gandhi had not consulted North-East chief ministers prior to the government signing the 1975 Shillong Accord — the first peace pact with the Nagas.
The three Congress chief ministers of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have accused the Centre of misleading the nation on its recent historic agreement with the NSCN(IM), as its details are still not out.
The BJP, however, said Congress president Sonia Gandhi forced the chief ministers to change their stand, and proffered photocopies of statements made on that day.
The ruling party also said North-Eastern leaders were consulted this time, countering Sonia's charge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not engaged Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang for the pact.
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday told reporters: “The then prime minister Indira Gandhi did not brief any of the North-East chief ministers” before signing the Naga agreement.
From the Centre’s side, former governor L P Singh, who was also the interlocutor, had singed the accord with Naga organisations on November 11, 1975. “I wonder if Indira Gandhi wanted to avoid opposition, as she did not consult others,” said Sitharaman, adding: “The Congress should understand what the North-East wants — peace, harmony and growth.”
Reiterating that the Centre had consulted Congress leaders in the North-East on the pact, as was evident from their reactions, Sitharaman also highlighted the instance of the Teesta Accord with Bangladesh for sharing of river water.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh “went to Bangladesh to sign the Teesta Accord, and (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee wasn't briefed,” she said.
Banerjee, however, had dropped out of the Bangladesh trip as she was not happy with the water-sharing formula, as briefed to her by the then national security advisor ahead of Singh’s September 2011 visit.
Sitharaman also read out a portion of Modi’s speech on the day the accord was signed, to contradict reports that senior Cabinet colleagues were also in the dark.
Modi had thanked Home Minister Rajnath Singh for his “support” and “advice” that culminated in the government signing the pact, she said.
Sitharaman also said Nagaland chief minister Zeliang had been continuously in dialogue with the prime minister, and that they had met again on Saturday.
She also recalled that Zeliang had met Modi with an all-party delegation led by state Assembly Speaker two days before the pact was signed.