By Oken Jeet Sandham
When press people asked Chief Minister TR Zeliang as to when he would fill the vacant Cabinet posts in his Council of Ministers. “Any time after the Assembly,” he told the good-tempered journalists who still wanted to know about the Congress’ joining his Ministry. The suave Chief Minister gave his final nod approving the Congress’ joining the DAN government. “It will now be a party-less government in Nagaland,” he said.
Everyone has been nervously watching at every move of TR and things now become crystal clear that the Congress will be a part of his DAN government in Nagaland. In fact, hours after winning the “Confidence Motion” with 59 Members in the House of sixty voting in favor it, TR, while talking to the press at his official residence, only hinted that there would soon be “a party-less government” in Nagaland.
CLP leader Tokheho Yepthomi has already stated that they would now join the DAN government in the state, and according to sources, at least two Cabinet posts will go to the Congress while the rest may be awarded with Parliamentary Secretary posts. The Congress has eight MLAs. The BJP, an important ally of the ruling DAN since its inception in 2003, has four MLAs. There are diametrical political ideologies between these two giant national political parties not only at the Center but also everywhere in the country. Dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the current BJP-led NDA government at the Center while the Congress plays main Opposition. In fact, the Congress, which led the 10-year old UPA government at the Center, suffered humiliating defeat at the hands of the BJP in the last 16th Lok Sabha elections. They had even double humiliations as the strength of the Congress MPs did not qualify them to have “Leader of the Opposition” tag in Parliament, though they still emerged as the largest Opposition party among the Opposition parties.
The fundamental question arises is can the Congress and the BJP go together in the same boat in any state or for that matter in Nagaland. It is very unlikely but the case in Nagaland becomes rare. And when the press people asked TR as to how two political parties having history of bitter political rivalries in the country would allow their party MLAs to be part of the same government in Nagaland, his reply was more classic saying “National issues are different from local issues.” There should not be any problem having both the Congress and the BJP in his DAN government in Nagaland, he replied.
We all have to remain finger-crossed and watch how TR is going to play his magic wand till such time formal induction of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries take place. In all likelihood, there will be some reactions after the induction ceremonies.
It is also understood that TR has to fulfill whatever he had a deal with Congress because the party’s (Congress) crucial role played at the time of “Confidence Motion” changed the entire political equation in the state. The survival theory as TR thought of by taking the support of the main Opposition Congress during his trial time might be politically correct but he cannot overlook the importance of BJP as they are currently at the helms at Delhi.
After taking the Congress to his boat, Nagaland Chief Minister, who is also Minister in-charge of Finance, will not be that lively in re-pleading with the ruling Central BJP leaders to rescue the state from its financial quagmire. He, while presenting the Vote on Account on the Floor of Assembly on March 17, highlighted his passionate pleadings with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister on many occasions to rescue the state from its precarious financial position. So, his magic wand should be watched in what manner the Central BJP leaders will be convinced for taking the Congress into the ruling DAN fold.
Actually if there is party-less government in Nagaland, then it should not be the problem. The problem is Opposition-less government which is not healthy in a democratic system of government.
In the last SC Jamir Congress ministry in Nagaland, only one Independent MLA Mavil Khieya was acting all along as the “lone Opposition” in the House of Sixty. Numerically, a single opposition MLA in the House of Sixty sounds funny but Khieya not only kept the 60-Member House a good-humor atmosphere but also could embarrass then Leader of the House Jamir and his Deputy Neiphiu Rio, who was Home Minister. Many legislators, media personnel, state officials and publics appreciated Khieya for his bold role as single Opposition Member in the 60-Member House. Had Khieya not been there as lone Opposition, we would have dormant government then in Nagaland.
But in the present case where TR is going to run a new form of Opposition-less government will not healthy at all. Because, in a democratic form of government such as ours, the role of opposition is a must so that the welfare state does not suffer. In the absence of Opposition, no government can function effectively.
Yepthomi, CLP leader, without doubt, is the most vocal opposition face in the Assembly. He is well-versed with many areas of governmental and administrative loopholes. He did his homework well before coming to any Assembly Sessions. His suggestions on important issues during Assembly Sessions were always taken seriously and even majority Members in the Treasury Bench appreciated his in-depth knowledge in many areas concerning the state. His and other Congress MLAs’ joining the ruling DAN will be the beginning to end the charm of democracy till another real opposition emerges.
Yes, many might have perceived that the legislators belonging to NPF (N) would act as Opposition in the Assembly. But in all likelihood, such thing may not happen because they had categorically stated on the Floor of the House minutes before voting in favor of “Confidence Motion” on February 5that they would not go against their “own government.”