UDA chairman TR Zeliang said that the merger of 21 NPF MLAs with NDPP is “legally correct” and it should be treated as “merger” and not otherwise as expressed by some leaders.
By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent
The recent decision of 21 Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLAs to merge with Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland is aimed at expediting and facilitating a solution to the protracted Naga political issue. “Collective efforts have been made to facilitate the process of resolving the protracted Naga political issue”, said former chief minister and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chairman TR Zeliang on Friday.
Addressing a press conference at Sky Garden, 7th Mile, Chumoukedima, Zeliang reminded that there was a “stalemate” in the “political dialogue” between the government of India (GoI) and the Naga negotiating groups. On October 28, 2020, he along with Nagaland chief minister, Neiphiu Rio, and NEDA convener, who is also the chief minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma had called on the Union home minister Amit Shah to discuss the Naga political issue. Both Shah and Sarma requested the delegations to issue a joint press statement and to work together towards a solution to the Naga political issue.
Zeliang said subsequently, on November 5, 2020, a press meet was held at the conference hall of the Nagaland assembly secretariat, where both parties expressed “willingness” to work together for the “Naga political issue” despite differences in political party affiliations.
He said that due to some “misunderstanding” between the two regional political parties, the two could not move forward and by the year 2021, the necessity to form an “opposition-less” government was felt in order to have better coordination in facilitating the process of Naga political issue.
In this regard, Zeliang said that in order to be specific after his meeting with Nagaland chief minister, Rio, on July 15, 2021, the next day (July 16), he met the President of India where he discussed the concept of the “opposition-less government” after which the latter gave a green signal to go ahead with the formation of the NPF Legislature Party (NPFLP) meeting and that the party would endorse and accordingly, the meet was held on July 19, 2021, at his Dimapur residence where resolution(s) were adopted in this regard.
‘Extensive discussion held in the highest decision making body of NPF’
With regard to the “opposition-less government” in Nagaland, the UDA president TR Zelaing said that an extensive discussion was held amongst the “highest decision” making body of the NPF at its central office, Kohima, in the presence of its president, and after a thorough deliberation, a decision was taken on August 16, 2021, to be a part of the “opposition-less government” where all formalities completed and the concerned political parties endorsing the “decision”.
As such the question of not consulting each other before the “decision” was taken by the legislature party on July 19, 2021, does not arise, said the UDA chairman.
He articulated by stating that “first of all we must understand that these development was not decided overnight, but was a result of a thorough deliberation between the two parties (NDPP and NPF) since 2021”, while also asking to recall since the day the NPF had walked out of the JLF on Naga political issue, had formed “Naga Political Affairs Mission” in 2019.
However, Zeliang said as “faith could have it” due to the ongoing “political dynamism”, the idea of having one strong regional party in the state cropped up again and as such a “talk” would be held discreetly at the “highest level” in order to work out an acceptable “formula” to amalgamate the two regional parties.
Disclosing that the first option was for the NDPP to merge or to join NPF party, Zeliang said that the NPF party “opted” for this proportion and openly welcomed the NDPP MLAs to NPF party which had been published in different local dailies but lamented that some of the “conditions” could not be made while finalizing the matter.
For this, he said that some MLAs from the NDPP were not willing to “come back” to NPF unless the latter’s president pave the way before such steps were taken, however, Zeliang said it was confirmed from “sources” of both sides that the NPF president would continue to hold his post till the present tenure is over due in 2024.
As such, Zeliang said that the “chapter” of NDPP merging with NPF has become “inconclusive” while adding that the second option left for the NPF legislators to join the NDPP was to “explore” in order to strengthen Nagaland chief minister, Nephiu Rio, to let him bring stability in the government to take the “Naga issue” forward.
‘NPF MLAs merging with NDPP not a sudden step, cites 10th Schedule of Indian Constitution’
Stating that it was a “consensus decision” that the two regional parties must come together and form a “strong” regional party in the state, the former Nagaland chief minister and UDA chairman TR Zeliang, categorically said it was not a “sudden step” for the NPF MLAs to finally merge with the NDPP.
He said that the NPF president was also well aware of the development and where he had even mentioned in a recent press interview that “it” did not come as a surprise to him.
Zeliang said that the decision of the 21 NPF MLAs was “consciously” decided according to the “law of the land” in bringing a change constitutionally.
Citing that after amendment of Clause 4.1 of the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 2003, if 2/3rd of elected members of a political party so decide to join another political party, they can do so with or without party functionaries but supplemented that as per to Clause 4.2 whether parties comes along with the MLA (s), the word “team” implies that 2/3rd members of the legislature party agrees to merge with another political party (s) which should be taken that there was a “merger” of the purpose of Clause 4.2 of the 10th schedule of the Indian constitution.
‘Merger is constitutionally valid’
Meanwhile, the UDA chairman TR Zeliang during Fridays’ press meet said that in its case since 2021, NPF MLAs comprising of more than 2/3rd in the NLA have agreed to “merge” with NDPP according to Clause 4.2 of the 10th Schedule for which he termed it was “aptly clear” that the “merger” was constitutionally valid.
Mentioning that in 2015, the party had witnessed wherein three NCP MLAs merged with the BJP party followed by NLA speaker disqualifying the three elected members based on the petition filed by the NCP leaders, Zeliang said that their point of contention was that as per Clause 4.1 of the 10th Schedule, the three members did not “merge” along with the party functionaries and therefore, the three MLAs appealed before the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench, against the speaker’s ruling and subsequently, the Court delivered its judgement in favour of the three MLAs as per Clause 2.1 of the 10th schedule.
He said nowhere in the country, merger taking place with 2/3rd MLAs were disqualified so far and he felt that such party leaders or MLAs should “update” themselves with the “law of the land” before expressing their own views out of ignorance of the law which may mislead the general public.
Zeliang further added that whether one likes it or not, the merger of the 21 NPF MLAs with NDPP is “legally correct” and it should be treated as “merger” and not otherwise as expressed by some leaders.