A favourable outcome in Manipur polls strengthens Team Modi's confidence in Delhi and can take decisive decisions on matters related to Nagaland as well.
New Delhi: The BJP made a triumphant entry into the Nagaland legislative assembly in 2003 when it won seven seats in the 60-member assembly. The saffron party has seen many ups and downs since then and even before the 2003 era.
It picked up 12 seats in the 2018 assembly polls, while it contested only 20 as part of seat adjustments with pre-poll partner NDPP. Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP won 18 out of 40 seats it contested. A robust BJP riding on Narendra Modi's popularity in two general elections, 2014 and 2019, has certainly made life tough for the regional politics across the country, more so in the Northeast.
The 'Manipur model' of BJP, wherein it decided to contest all 60 seats, has definitely alarmed NDPP and NPF in Nagaland. In Manipur, the BJP is now contesting all 60 seats and is eyeing a government of its own. The possibilities of the saffron party hoping to get a chief minister of its own in Nagaland cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, the future of Naga politics depends on the fate of progress in Naga peace talks. Among Naga leaders, N C Zeliang and Pius Lotha were early birds in the BJP camp, having contested assembly polls. In fact, in 1993, cine star Shatrughan Sinha had campaigned for N C Zeliang for the prestigious Dimapur I assembly seat.
The 2003 assembly polls were crucial for the BJP, and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee mentioned the party's performance in Nagaland, saying, "We did so due to our policies and ideologies as not many national-level leaders also campaigned for our candidates in Nagaland polls."
Former Nagaland chief minister Hokishe Sema was unanimously elected as leader of the BJP legislature party in the presence of BJP vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal and the party in charge of North East V Satish.
The BJP became one of the constituents of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland led by Neiphiu Rio as the alliance and humbled Congress stalwart S C Jamir. It emerged as the largest political entity bagging 29 seats in the 60-member House.
Hokishe Sema had been a three-time CM in Nagaland and is credited for spearheading the Congress debut in Nagaland in the 1960s. He also had served as governor of Himachal Pradesh.
Interestingly, the BJP always maintained good connections with regional (non-Congress leaders) in Nagaland, and former Chief Minister Vamuzo used to bank heavily on national non-Congress leaders such as L K Advani, George Fernandes and Chandrashekhar.
In fact, during BJP's National Executive meet in Mumbai, Vamuzo, as a Christian and a tribal leader, was felicitated by the saffron party and was presented a Kashmiri shawl.
Another regional stalwart Vizol Angami, worked closely with the BJP leadership as Rajya Sabha MP, and so did NPF members like Wangyu Konyak, Neiphiu Rio himself (in 2014) and others.
During the CAA debate in 2019, NPF member K G Kenye said in Rajya Sabha on Dec. 11 (2019) that the issues related to CAA had been taken completely out of context.
"What is raised at the regional level on the ground and what is happening at the national level has taken a completely different turn. Our people in the Northeast have no religious bias," he said. He backed the new bill, and his party strangely took disciplinary action against him.
Now all eyes are on Manipur and UP polls' outcome as a strong mandate favouring the saffron party will strengthen Team Modi's confidence in Delhi; then, it is expected some decisive decisions could be taken on matters related to Nagaland as well.
Some behind-the-scenes conclaves suggest that the NPF and the NDPP are proposing merger politics. There is a move that Neiphiu Rio may even get the organisational leadership of the united regional platform. But Rio is a pragmatic leader and will soon draw a realistic political line to do business with the BJP.
Henceforth, the role of the BJP cannot be underestimated in Nagaland politics. The saffron party is also eyeing a Rajya Sabha berth from the state.