Dimapur: United Democratic Alliance chairman TR Zeliang on Friday said his, along with 20 other Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLAs, joining chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) was aimed at debarring a “third party” from taking advantage in the Nagaland electoral politics vis-à-vis in presence of two strong regional parties in the state.
Asked whether he meant the BJP by a “third party”, Zeliang said it may be BJP, Congress or any other party.
According to him, when there are two strong regional parties in the state, a third party will take advantage.
The former chief minister called a press conference at 7th Mile in Chumukedima to clear some confusion that had surfaced in the public domain after the 21 NPF MLAs joined the NDPP on March 29.
Replying to a question if he had compromised with his political career by joining the chief minister Rio’s party, Zeliang said, “This will not invite any dispute”.
He explained that the recent political development was not an overnight decision but was a result of thorough deliberation between the NDPP and the NPF since 2021.
“Since the day the NPF walked out of the Joint Legislators Forum (JLF) on Naga Political Issue and formed the Political Affairs Mission in the year 2019, collective efforts have been made to facilitate in solving the Naga political issue.
“This demand for unity amongst the elected members, especially the two regional parties in the state, NPF and NDPP, echoed louder as there was a stalemate in the political dialogue between the Government of India and Naga negotiating groups,” he said.
Zeliang said due to the ongoing political dynamics, the idea of having one strong regional party in the state cropped up again and that talks were held discreetly at the highest level to work out an acceptable formula to amalgamate the two regional parties – NDPP and NPF.
Although the first option was for the NDPP to join the NPF, he said, it did not work out. Later, the second option of the NPF MLAs joining the NDPP was explored to strengthen the hands of the chief minister and bring stability in the government.
“Since it was a consensus decision that the two regional parties must come together and form one strong regional party, it was not a sudden step for the NPF MLAs to finally merge with the NDPP,” Zelaing added.
He said NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu was also well aware of the developments and had even mentioned in an interview to the press that it did not come as surprise to him.
Saying that the 21 MLAs consciously took the decision according to the law of the land, Zeliang cited a change in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
He said after the amendment of the Clause 4 (1) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution in 2003, if two-third of the elected members of a political party decides to join another political party, they can do with or without party functionaries.
“According to Clause 4 (2), whether the party comes with MLAs or not, the word ‘deemed to have taken place’ implies that if two-third of a legislature party agrees to merge with another political party, then it should be taken that there was a merger for the purpose of Clause 4 of 10th Schedule of the Constitution,” he added.
“In our case, since the 21 MLAs comprising two-third legislative members belonging to the NPF have agreed to merge with the NDPP, according to Paragraph 4(2) or the 10th Schedule, it is aptly clear that the merger is constitutionally valid,” he said.
He stressed that the merger of 21 NPF MLAs with the NDPP is legally correct and that it should be treated as merger and not otherwise as expressed by some leaders.
Zeliang also urged party leaders or MLAs to update themselves with the law of the land before expressing their own views out of ignorance of the law of the land which may mislead the general public.
NPF president Liezietsu termed the joining of the NPF MLAs with the NDPP as defection not merger while asking how the MLAs of a party can merge with another party without the party.