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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2523

Zeliang opens his mind

Zeliang opens his mind

It may be remembered that when the DAN came to power in 2003, the state’s accumulated deficit amounting to Rs 365 crore was wiped out through a One Time Grant (OTG) given by Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA government at the Center and that was how the state could start with a clean slate.

Neiphiu Rio ruled Nagaland the DAN-I, DAN-II and one year of DAN-III. His decision to go to Delhi as an MP before completing his tenure as chief minister (CM) of the DAN-III made TR Zeliang as his successor. But he (Zeliang) had to run the state with the huge deficit of over Rs 1000 crore inherited when he took over from his predecessor.

So when Zeliang presented the state budget in July for the year of 2014-15, the deficit stood at Rs 1252.45 crore. The state’s financial position has since been fast worsening. Yet, many had hopes that the new Prime Minister (PM) of the BJP-led NDA Government, Narenda Modi, would have some soft corner for NPF-led DAN government in Nagaland.
The CM had put his best effort to convince the new PM to give an OTG to wipe out the state’s deficit but in vain. Soon, the people could sense the would-be outcome and fate of the state economy. Tokheho Yepthomi, leader of Congress Legislature Party has already warned that the state’s deficit may rise to over Rs 2000 crore by the end of the current financial year.

The people of Nagaland still have fond memories of former PM Vajpayee because of his generosity and declaring as “unique” the Naga history. He readily gave an OTG of Rs 365 crore to then Rio Ministry in 2003 to wipe out accumulated deficit of the state, so that they could start with a clean slate.

While visiting Nagaland in the same year, he again gave an unprecedented economic package of Rs 1053 crore to the state. His coming to Nagaland in 2003 as NDA PM had also added more ingredients to the otherwise fragile Center-NSCN(IM) talks by declaring that the “Naga history is unique.”

Why Vajpayee Government was so generous to the first DAN government headed by Neiphiu Rio in 2003? The answer is very simple. The BJP’s wining of seven seats in 2003 general elections in a predominantly Christian Nagaland could be one factor that drew huge attention of Vajpayee government at the Center. Almost all the BJP MLAs except Dr Hokishe Sema were in council of ministers. Yet Dr Sema was appointed as Chairman of DAN with a Cabinet status. The key home portfolio went to BJP legislator Dr TM Lotha.

In fact BJP with its seven legislators became second largest ally in the first DAN in 2003 after NPF with nineteen legislators. Rio had to exercise one of the toughest downsizing juggleries when the Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, which limits the size of all ministries in India, came into force on July 2004. He retained two BJP ministers while most of them were accommodated as Parliamentary Secretaries.

In 2008 state general elections, the NPF could win 26 seats while its major ally BJP could manage to win only two seats. Yet, all were surprised when the NPF could muster as much as 38 seats in 2013 state general elections while BJP reduced to one.

This landslide victory made regional NPF ever powerful, needing no support from any parties for forming government. Yet, it maintained the spirit of DAN by accommodating the single BJP legislator and others including Independents in the government.

Unfortunately, Vajpayee government failed to retain power in 2004 general elections. The Congress-led UPA Government came to power in 2004 with Dr Manmohan Singh as PM. Again Congress-led UPA retained power in 2009 general elections. During these ten years of UPA-I and II regimes, the NPF-led DAN continued to remain in power. But on some occasions, ruling DAN governments did not act as part of NDA which was main opposition in Parliament then. To cite an example, then Nagaland lone MP from NPF, CM Chang, gave support to Congress-led UPA Government and not remaining as part of main opposition, BJP-led NDA then. Such strange behavior made difficult for the central BJP leaders to think succinctly on the style of leadership of NPF in Nagaland. Nevertheless, it is understandable that a small state like Nagaland is too dependent on the Center for its survival, no matter which party comes to power. So, former CM Rio had to keep then ruling UPA-I and II in good humor. Yet, DAN-I and DAN-II governments under him continued to plunge into rising deficits.

Many have agreed that corruption has become a phenomenon everywhere and Nagaland is no exception. Many have also disagreed with state Governor PB Acharya’s sweeping allegation that state politicians were indulging in “rampant corruptions.” His further allegation that Naga people’s greediness for money had emboldened state politicians to indulge in rampant corruption has not been well either in many circles.

I came across some Naga officers who did not entertain political pressures on many occasions and this group of officers would certainly disagree with the kind of sweeping allegation of the governor that “Naga people’s greedy for money” remark. In fact, many a time, some honest officers became victims of politicians because of their refusal to obey dictates from them. We also came across some good politicians who were against the corrupt practices by certain politicians.

In today’s environment, it will not be wrong to say that politicians who do not want to spend money at the time of elections in Nagaland have slim chances to win elections. Today, we have reached to such a situation that makes everyone one of us believing that “no candidate can win election without money.” In fact, politicians who do not have any money for spending in elections have become “mockery”. Sometimes, rich people keep flaunting that they can contest elections any time as they are wealthy enough to face electorates as well other unseen elements.

The common opinion formed among the electorates is also such that whoever gives them more money, their votes will be given to them. This way, corruption has been directly encouraged and winners in the elections after spending crores of rupees will work out their first roadmaps to morrow money by hook or by crook.

One of the best ways to stop corruption in the society, in my opinion, is we need to educate our electorates that they should not ask any money from the contesting candidates at the time of elections in the state. At the same time, there should be continuous awareness campaigns from village to village as to how the people should choose the right candidates as these are the people who are going to represent them in deciding the fate of their future.

Bottom Line:

the first time Zeliang has opened his mind with regard to shaping of future of the people of Nagaland by standing on their own feet. In one of his recent public address, he disclosed that Nagaland was the only state in the country begging all the time from the Center while other states did not and further asserted that “We cannot always beg from the Center.” His remark is one such positive move that will draw supports from the people of Nagaland who have been critical of the manner in which state leaders were standing at the doors knocking almost all Central Ministers for grants and funds.

Although he knows very well the kind of suffering the state is likely to experience if they do not get any grants and funds from the Center, the chief minister explained that the state and its people should not continue to expect Delhi to help them “forever” and emphatically asking them to change their mindsets and move forward making them self-sufficient and economically sustainable.

In fact, PM Modi had opened the minds of the people of Nagaland that their destiny should be decided by them only and not the Center. Zeliang might have realized after Modi’s recent visit to Nagaland and cautiously asked the people of Nagaland - “We should start earning.” A positive and meaningful move, indeed, and the people of Nagaland should support it.

- Asian Tribune -

T.R. Zeliang - Chief Minister of Nagaland
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