Zeliang sacrificed for Naga machismo?

           NAGALAND chief minister TR Zeliang dashing to New Delhi to appraise the Central government leaders on the fast changing socio-political scenario in the hilly state, which has been on the boil in the wake of massive protests against reservation for women in local body elections, seems to be aimed at driving home the message to all, including his colleagues in the Naga People’s Party (NPF), that he will not give up the coveted post without a fight, if at all it necessitates the involvement/intervention by the Centre. Subsequent to the NPF legislators choosing senior leader and NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu to take over the charge from TR Zeliang, the latter as well as Governor PB Acharya left the restive state to consult the BJP-led Central government, of which NPF is also an ally and both are constituents in Nagaland’s ruling alliance. In view of the deadline set by the agitating tribal organisations for NPF MLAs to either resign by Friday or face public boycott in next year’s assembly elections, the ruling party eventually deciding to find a new chief minister is understandable as the primary demand of protesters is that TR Zeliang must go to pave the way for finding an amicable solution to the imbroglio gripping Manipur’s neighbour. Ironically, the incumbent chief minister has been drawing flak from the public merely for his efforts to empower the Nagaland women by involving them in decision making bodies, at-least from the grassroots level to begin with.

              The protesters, spearheaded by the Nagaland Tribal Action Committee, have been ranting at Zeliang after two protesters died in police firing for attempting to storm the Dimapur residence of the chief minister, notwithstanding the fact that it is the bounden duty of the police to maintain order and ensure that no agitation turns violent or go out of control. It is learnt that Zeliang himself is no novice in Nagaland politics, for prior to taking over the reins from the then chief minister Neiphiu Rio following the latter's shift to national-level politics in Delhi, he had served as an MP of the Rajya Sabha, won four consecutive terms from Tening AC in Peren district from 1989 as a candidate of the Naga People's Council and thrice in between 1993 and 2003 as Indian National Congress nominee. Having held ministerial portfolios when SC Jamir was the chief minister, in 2003, Zeliang and six Congress MLAs formed the Nagaland Congress after defecting from the INC only to merge with the Neiphiu Rio-led NPF. Despite serving the people of Nagaland in various capacities, the protesters’ unwavering stand that Zeliang must step down owing moral responsibility of the death of agitators compels one to speculate whether the hate campaign against the cornered CM has anything to do with his belonging to the minor Zeliang tribe as all other chief ministers before him were from major tribes of Nagaland, Ao and Angami in particular.

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