Guwahati: In a surprising development in Nagaland’s political scenario, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and state deputy chief minister Yanthungo Patton, along with Naga People’s Front (NPF) leader Taditui Rangkau Zeliang, who is also the leader of the Opposition, reportedly met NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah at Camp Hebron, the insurgent group’s administrative and military headquarters, near Dimapur recently.
The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of some speculations that a few senior leaders of the saffron party, under the leadership of Patton, are planning to forge an alliance with opposition NPF to form a new government in Nagaland, with Patton as the chief minister.
The two senior leaders, who were once party mates, reportedly met Muivah on September 24. Incidentally, during both his terms (May 2014-February 2017 and July 2017-March 2018) as the chief minister of Nagaland, 67-year-old Zeliang had Patton in his Cabinet.
Patton, a member of NPF till 2018, resigned from the party and the post of state home minister about a month prior to the state assembly elections on February 27, 2018 to contest the polls as a BJP candidate.
The move, under the initiative of Patton, was reportedly started in the first week September this year. According to sources, representatives of Patton and Zeliang have met numerous occasions to make the roadmap ready. Now, this development has taken a matured shape and if everything goes according to plan, then some major announcement will be made very shortly, sources close to Nagaland BJP claimed.
In the 60-member Nagaland assembly, the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) coalition members are Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) (18 seats), BJP (12), National People’s Party (2), Janata Dal United (1) and independent (1), while the Opposition NPF has 26 seats.
According to sources, Patton wants to take the chair of the chief minister giving the post of deputy chief minister to Zeliang. “Even after having more than double the number of seats than BJP, Zeliang’s NPF wants to make an alliance with the party as the former two-time CM has shown desperation to be in power,” sources added.
Incidentally, addressing a BJP meeting on ‘Article370 Sampark Abhiyan and Jan Jagaran Abhiyan’ at Tiyi Hall in Wokha recently, Patton was seen openly criticising the ruling NDPP. “Last election also, out of 40, they got simple pass mark. We got first class mark,” Patton had said.
In the last assembly election, BJP contested in 20 seats while NDPP gave tickets to candidates in 40 seats in the 60-member Nagaland House. Out of this, BJP won in 12 seats while NDPP succeeded in 18.
When contacted, Nagaland state BJP president and state minister Temjen Imna Along said, “As for me I don’t know about all this. It may be rumour. I, as state president, BJP Nagaland unit, will listen to the directive of high command. And as of now, the leaders of BJP have directed us that we will adhere to pre-poll alliance. PDA [ruling People’s Democratic Alliance] is very comfortable.”
Sources close to Zeliang said, “Speculations have been going on since last year, but nothing is happening actually. They were never there (Camp Hebron) together. And what will their visit to Hebron have to do with the change of guard in the state? As of now, we can’t confirm if he (Zeliang) was there or not. He might have paid a courtesy visit, but that’s off the record. I have no clue about Patton being there but definitely, they were never there together.”
If speculations become reality, then Y Patton will be the first chief minister from the Lotha community of Nagaland.
Despite repeated attempts, Patton could not be contacted till the filing of this report.