New Delhi: Even as the budget session of the Nagaland assembly is on, the Congress leadership in the capital is all set to take action “very soon” against all its eight MLAs who have joined the state’s Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition government of which the BJP is a part.
“The Congress high command is holding consultations with legal experts and will take action against these MLAs very soon,” party general secretary in charge of Nagaland, V. Narayanasamy, said, adding that all options were being considered.
In May, all eight Congress MLAs – S.I. Jamir, Tokheho Yepthomi, Apok Jamir, Hukavi Zhimomi, Imti Wabang, Imti Kumzuk Longkumar, Ishak Konyak and Khekaho – joined the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF)-led DAN government throwing the political landscape into a state of flux.
S.I. Jamir and Apok Jamir also happen to be the brother and son respectively of former Congress chief minister and current Governor of Odisha, S.C. Jamir.
While Tokheho Yepthomi was made minister for public health and engineering, S.I Jamir holds cabinet rank as advisor to chief minister and Imti Kumzuk Longkumar was made deputy speaker of the assembly.
The other five MLAs were made parliamentary secretaries.
The sequence of events unfolded from February this year when the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) president S.I. Jamir and then Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Tokheho Yepthomi briefed party president Sonia Gandhi that they would like to join the government of Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang.
“The party president said that she had no problem in them joining the DAN government provided the BJP was not a part of it,” explained Narayanasamy.
The two state leaders then informed Zeliang that the Congress high command has approved of them joining his government provided the BJP was not a part of it.
In April, a “political affairs committee” of the party’s state unit passed a resolution approving the MLAs’ bid to join the government.
But party members raised objections saying that such a resolution can only be passed by the executive committee and not by any political affairs committee.
“You see, the resolution was not unanimous and the party was split on the issue,” Narayanasamy said.
On May 5, Gandhi appointed K. Therie as the NPCC president and the very next day the latter issued a directive to the MLAs not to join the DAN government.
According to Narayanasamy, on May 7, a press statement was also issued saying that the MLAs have been directed by the Congress president not to join the DAN government “as we cannot be on the same side as that of a communal party like BJP”.
The very next day, the eight MLAs were inducted into the government.
“I, as party general secretary, immediately suspended them and issued a show-cause notice,” Narayanasamy said.
So what was their response?
“They said that to solve the Naga political issue, the chief minister has proposed an all-party government and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given an assurance (in December last year) that the Naga issue would be solved within 18 months. They also said that in case the party leaders felt that they have violated the party directive, they were sorry,” the Congress general secretary said.
Narayanasamy then sent a rejoinder saying that the MLAs’ act of joining the government was not acceptable and “as a matter of principle, the Congress and the BJP cannot sit in the same government”.
“We also said that though you are suspended from the party, you are still Congressmen and you have to oppose the government on the floor of the house,” he said.
The party also issued a three-line whip on this basis to the eight MLAs a week before the ongoing budget session of the assembly that started on July 21. However, there has been no reply to the latest whip.
“We are now consulting legal experts on whether to move the speaker and disqualify them from the assembly or to expel them from the party,” Narayanasamy said.
“We will take a decision within a very short period.”