Nagaland is headed for an all-party government with the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the state's lone opposition party, deciding to work together with the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) led by the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) for the sake of the Naga political cause.
NPF secretary-general Achumbemo Kikon told Outlook that the party’s legislators met on Monday and decided to work together with the government. “The legislators had discussed the matter with the party before meeting to take the decision,” he said adding the development was in response to feelers from the government on the need to put up a united face vis-a-vis the Naga peace process.
“The only consideration is the Naga political issue. We want to see it expedited and a solution found at the earliest. It was felt that putting up a united face and speaking in one voice would boost the morale of our Naga national workers also to come together in the pursuit of the same goal,” he said.
Kikon said the NPF has always been consistent in its stand on the Naga peace process that it needs to be expedited and an honourable and peaceful solution found. He, however, said the party’s identity would remain intact. He also sought to make a distinction between ‘joining the government’ and ‘working together with the government.’
“We are yet to thrash out the nitty gritty. The party will decide on its stand on the issue of day-to-day governance. As of now, our only concern is the Naga political issue,” he said.
If the opposition-less government idea works, it will be a repeat of 2015 when eight Congress MLAs joined the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland led by the NPF under then chief minister and present opposition leader in the assembly TR Zeliang. The Congress MLAs later joined the NPF.
In June, the government had constituted the Core Committee for Naga Political Issue comprising legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties. Led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, the committee had called for “one solution and one agreement” to the decades-old Indo-Naga political issue.
The Congress, which had ruled the state for several years but is now without a single MLA, has been critical of the committee and its goal of facilitating an early solution to the “ongoing talks”. NPCC president K Therie saw no need for such a committee after the Centre’s interlocutor for the talks said in 2019 that all negotiations had concluded.
The talks with the NSCN (IM) started in August 1997 and the outfit signed a “Framework Agreement” with the Centre on August 3, 2015. On the other hand, the working committee of six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) inked a separate agreement – “Agreed Position” – with the Centre on November 17, 2017.
The talks, however, hit a roadblock in early 2020 after the NSCN-IM refused to continue the discussions with the interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi. The NSCN-IM has been stubborn on its demands for “a separate constitution and a flag for the Nagas”, which the Centre is not willing to concede. Besides, the other sorring point in the talks has been the NSCN-IM’s demand for the merger of all Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur with Nagaland.