NPF legislators along with the party president and other leaders of the party.

Kohima: A day after 21 MLAs from the Naga People’s Front (NPF) party joined Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio-led Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), NPF president Dr Shürhozelie Liezietsu said that the party will reclaim the ministerial berth and chairmanship of the all-party-alliance given to NPF. 

“They have done it on their own. It is not a merger since they joined the NDPP. On our part, it is clear defection,” Liezietsu told journalists during a press conference at his residence on Saturday. 

On Friday, 21 out of 25 NPF MLAs, including the chairman of Nagaland’s opposition-less government –the United Democratic Alliance (UDA)–and leader of the NPF legislature party TR Zeliang, minister of environment, forest and climate change YM Yollow, and 19 MLAs merged with the NDPP party to strengthen Rio government and their resolve in bringing about a settlement to the Naga issue. 

Liezietsu recalled an understanding about the formation of the opposition-less government, where one legislator from the party was appointed as the UDA Chairman and another was given a cabinet seat. 

“But since both of them left us, and since these two posts belong to NPF, we feel that the people in the government today must give us back two posts,” he said. The party president added that the four members who did not join the NDPP party. They are Kuzholuzo Nienu, Khriehu Liezietsu, Ngangshi K Ao and Kezhiehyi Khalo.  

He added that since the NPF has “no share” in the opposition-less government, it deserves to get back what was given to it. To this, MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu added that this matter would be taken up with the chief minister. 

NPF secretary-general Achumbemo Kikon said that the question of merger with NDPP does not arise as the party was not consulted, did not agree nor endorsed the move, and that is clear defection from the party. When asked if the party would initiate any legal action, Kikon said that the NPF would take its course of action.

Defection” of 21 MLAs is not a surprise

The announcement of the NPF MLAs joining the NDPP came in as a shocker for many in Nagaland. But to the party functionary, it was not a surprise. 

Liezietsu said that the party leaders were not surprised by the move of the 21 MLAs in leaving the party, but that it came “earlier than expected”. He said that the party would not be surprised if the supporters of these MLAs also resigned from the party in the coming days. 

He said that the party will now start with a firm foundation, with people who understand and stand by the party principles and those who keep their stature for the party. Terming the four MLAs as “heroes” of the party, he said that even though the number of legislators declined from 25 to four, the party is not discouraged but rather determined to revamp and re-activate the party activities ahead of the state elections scheduled next year. 

The Naga political issue: All-party-alliance to continue

The party president also said that the NPF party would continue to be part of the all-party-alliance. Despite changes, he said that the party would remain constant. 

While the legislators left the party to join with NDPP with one motive to resolve the Naga political issue, Liezietsu said that forming the UDA government and at the same time joining another political party for the same reason, makes no sense, as the Naga political issue is one issue. 

In addition to Liezietsu, Nienu said that they would continue to be part of the opposition-less government because of the Naga political issue, and as long as the issue is there, they will continue to be part of the alliance, if the chief minister considers the same. 

He added that although the move made by the legislators is confusing, the party’s pursuit to resolve the Naga political issue is clear. Further, Nienu hoped that all 21 legislators who joined NDPP, get the new party tickets to contest in the upcoming polls. 

Change of guard in party leadership

MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu has been appointed as the leader of the NPF legislature party on Saturday while, Dr Ngangshi Ao has been appointed as the party whip. The appointment was made by the party president, following a meeting with the party leadership at the president’s residence. 

When asked if the party would consider taking back its former members, NPF party president Dr Shürhozelie Liezietsu said that in case of such a situation, the party would examine if it would be proper to take back the members. At this point, he said that it would be “difficult” to do so. 

And as the party gears to revive and come back stronger, the leaders also hinted that the people of Nagaland can be prepared to see new faces contesting for the party in the upcoming state polls. 

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