The Liezietsu government in Nagaland, facing uncertainty after former chief minister T R Zeliang staked claim to form a new government, today voiced confidence that the political crisis would blow over soon. Government spokesperson and school education minister Yitachu told a press conference that the leadership crisis in the ruling Naga People’s Front would be resolved at the earliest and Liezietsu would be filing his nomination tomorrow to contest the by-election to the Northern Angami-I Assembly seat to enable him to become a member of the 60-member Assembly. At the press conference, the newly appointed chairman of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), Kuzholuzo Azo Nienu, supported Yitachu’s contention saying that the alliance partners NPF, BJP, JD(U) and NCP held a meeting today reaffirming their backing to Chief Minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu. Zeliang, who has claimed the support of 41 of 59 MLAs in the Assembly, had yesterday written to Governor P B Acharya for an invitation to form the new NPF-led DAN government at the earliest. Northern Angami-I contituency is the lone vacant in the House where there is no opposition.
Along with Zeliang’s letter, a statement, purportedly signed by 41 MLAs, had expressed support to Zeliang and demanded that Liezietsu step down immediately. The statement issued last night said, “His (Liezietsu’s) lack of conscience and public immorality is clearly demonstrated by his clinging to the chair of the chief minister which is unbecoming of a seasoned and veteran politician.” Zeliang had to step down as the chief minister on February 22 following statewide protests against holding of polls to urban local bodies with 33 per cent reservation for women. In a statement issued last night, the MLAs had appealed to the people of Nagaland to “kindly bear with us as we are actively processing the formation of a popular government at the earliest”.
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The state education minister alleged that the crisis sprang from Zeliang’s stand that the July 29 by-election to the Northern Angami-I Assembly seat in which Liezietsu is a candidate, was not necessary since his elevation to chief ministership on February 22 was only a stopgap arrangement to calm public outrage against the former CM. There was mass protest and agitation against Zeliang for holding elections to urban local bodies (ULB) with 33 per cent women reservation.
Yitachu argued that since it was felt necessary that the present arrangement should continue to resolve the ULB issue, a consensus decision was taken by the state cabinet, the DAN legislature party and the NPF central executive council to let Liezietsu contest the by-election and become an elected member of the House to continue as chief minister. The minister also accused Zeliang of holding back the elected members by calling them for a dinner at his private house in Dimapur to discuss leadership issue. Yitachu claimed that majority of the cabinet ministers had since returned to Kohima and held meeting with the NPF party, where it was decided that leadership crisis was not good for the party and the Naga people at this juncture.
Thereafter, an official communication askin Zeliang to come back and take over the chief ministership was made by Minister for Roads and Bridges Y Vikheho Swu, he said. “We thought that they are camping together to take over the government, but when they are asked to do so they refused and their response has confused the party compelling it to suspend some and also sack four ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” Yitachu said.
Asked whether Liezietsu was prepared for a floor test in the Assembly, Yitachu said that there was no need for it as the incumbent chief minister “legally has the support of all MLAs in the House”. He asserted that since former chief minister Zeliang had been suspended from the party there was no leadership crisis.
On the possible dissolution of the Assembly because of the present crisis, Yitachu said it would be the prerogative of the chief minister and the state cabinet to decide if the House needed to be dissolved.