Neiphiu Rio –the third time Chief Minister of Nagaland (like Modi in Gujarat) and leader ruling Naga Peoples Front has given up his incumbent CM’s position to contest and win (a foregone conclusion) the sole Lok Sabha seat from Nagaland to join NDA. His party men, it is reported, were not comfortable with his decision to join an NDA led by someone like Modi. Naturally- Modi and Rio are the complete antithesis of one another. Modi is a Hindu and perceived as the most hard line face of Hindutva. Rio is a Christian in a State with a Christian majority , most of whom are devout Christians.So why has he decided to join NDA?
One of the leading newspaper in the capital reported that Rio is eyeing a cabinet berth. As per existing standards of values of Delhi’s political establishment which has also spread to the states, spoils of office are an accepted quid pro quo for political support and is perceived as the right of one who provides the support. To that extent, the reporter of the newspaper cannot be faulted because he/ she may not have seen anything different in India’s recent political life.
But is that the reason for Rio to give up his CM’s position?
Let us see the strength of Rio to bargain for a cabinet berth. He is the lone member of his party in the Lok Sabha and his vote is not required by BJP to form the government. Can he claim a cabinet berth? At best, Modi may be bound by his conscience but not by any compulsion of numbers, to give him a small or insignificant portfolio with a status of saying, Minister of State as a token of appreciation for his personal support. Could it therefore be why an astute politician like Rio would sacrifice a far more powerful position of Chief Minister of a state?
Till now Neiphiu Rio’s foray outside his State has been to lead a front of regional political parties of the North East. North Eastern states are very small states and have few legislators to muster enough pressure to get their issues heard in Delhi. National parties- for both Congress and BJP till now have been least interested in North East and paid only lip service because these states were not considered electorally important. According to a politician from the region- a Joint Secretary in a ministry is the last word on an issue of the North East.
As a former member of Congress and thereafter as Chief Minister from a regional party Rio surely is not new to apathy and lack of understanding of the Delhi establishment on issues of Naga insurgency, fear and concern of the Nagas- a miniscule minority for their identity and existence, Bangladeshi infiltration, development etc.
In order to address to these concerns- he left Congress to form and lead a regional party and subsequently bring other regional parties from the North East under North Eastern Regional parties Front to collectively take local issues with Delhi.
Rio must have heard Narendra Modi addressing rallies across the country and in the North East- where he raised mostly local issues- those of concern for the people. For the first time Rio probably found someone who shares the concern and aspirations of his people. What is more, to him Modi actually sounded sincere, unlike most other national politicians just like he sounded to the poor and Dalits in UP and Bihar .
Rio never thought of joining UPA or even earlier NDA. But Modi ? Well, why not try him? There is nothing much to lose- only the CM’s office. A small price to get his people heard in Delhi.
By Prabhat Sharma
Image Courtesy: YesPunjab.Com, IANS