The Assembly round

Print edition : March 21, 1998
Nagaland KALYAN CHAUDHURI

THE Congress(I) won the lone Lok Sabha seat of Kohima in Nagaland. The party also won an overwhelming majority in the Assembly -- 53 of the 60 seats. All major political parties had boycotted the elections following a call given by the Naga Hoho, the apex body of the Naga tribal people, and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the State.

A 12-member Congress(I) Ministry led by S.C.Jamir assumed office in Nagaland on March 5 for a second successive term. Governor Om Prakash Sharma administered the oath of office to Jamir and his Cabinet colleagues amid protests by members of the Naga Hoho outside the Raj Bhavan.

A delegation of Naga Hoho leaders had urged the Governor on March 4 not to allow the swearing-in of the Ministry. One Naga Hoho leader said: "The Naga people will treat this as the highest act of betrayal of people's trust in democracy." The action committee of the Naga Hoho and the NGOs formally resolved not to recognise Jamir's Government. At a meeting on March 3, the committee asked government employees not to cooperate with the "self-styled " government. The Naga Hoho warned of strikes and other forms of agitation in the event of Jamir being sworn in.

Jamir told Frontline that he was determined to keep the democratic process in the State undisturbed. He said that the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) had agreed for peace talks and it should not go in for a confrontation with the Centre at this juncture. "While solving a problem, one should not create more problems. We should not confuse between the peace process and the democratic process," he said.

The Naga Hoho stated that the elections were "untimely" in view of the ongoing peace talks. A statement issued by the NSCN(I-M)'s principal secretary, L.B. Sing, said that if any Naga was found filing nominations for the elections, he or she would be treated as "anti-national" and awarded "capital punishment".

The ruling Congress(I) won 43 seats unopposed as no other political party fielded candidates in these constituencies in response to the Naga Hoho call. For the remaining 17 seats, where elections were held under tight security, the battle was between the Congress(I) and independents. The Congress(I) won 10 of these seats and independents seven.

Meghalaya KALYAN CHAUDHURI

IF the Lok Sabha elections in the State were a cake-walk for the Congress(I), the party was forced into a difficult situation by the Assembly election results.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma was re-elected from the Tura (Garo Hills) seat and former Mizoram Governor P.R. Kyndiah won the Shillong seat. G.G. Swell, who was a member of the previous Lok Sabha, joined the BJP after he lost as the United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate in Shillong.

The political situation in the State remained unstable in the first week of March. Since neither the Congress(I) nor the UDP secured an absolute majority, smaller parties and independents played a crucial role in government formation. The Congress(I), which emerged as the single largest party by winning 25 seats in the 60-member Assembly, was invited by Governor M.M. Jacob to form a minority government shortly after the declaration of the results on February 27.

An hour before the new Ministry, led by S.C. Marak, was sworn in, UDP leader B.B. Lyngdoh claimed a majority and submitted a list of 32 MLAs to the Governor. The UDP won 20 seats on its own and is the main Opposition party. The BJP, the Hill States People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) and the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), which won three seats each, one Garo National Council (GNC) legislator and two independents, F.A. Khonglam and Abu Taher Mandal, offered support to Lyngdoh.

The Governor went ahead with the swearing-in of the Marak Ministry. The Chief Minister was asked to prove his majority in the Assembly by March 12. The five-member Congress(I) Ministry included D.D. Lapang, Lotsing Sangma, J.D. Rymbai and Kitdor Syiem. This is the second consecutive Congress(I)-led coalition Government in the State. D.D. Lapang was made Deputy Chief Minister. Marak holds the largest number of portfolios, including Political Affairs, Cabinet Affairs, Personnel and Administrative Reforms and Reorganisation.

A Raj Bhavan communique explained the circumstances under which Marak was invited to form the government. Marak called on the Governor on February 26 and stated that in addition to the 25 Congress(I) MLAs, he had the support of five independents. He gave their names in writing. He also claimed that three HSPDP legislators supported him and that they were to call on the Governor later on that day to indicate their support formally, according to the communique. Marak thus claimed a comfortable majority.

The communique said that later in the same day, B.B. Lyngdoh staked his claim to form the government. In addition to his 20 MLAs, he claimed the support of three members each of the HSPDP, the BJP and the PDM, besides the support of three independents. The Governor asked both the leaders to substantiate their claims that day. The communique stated that owing to constraints of time necessitated by the need to have a new government, it was not possible to postpone the decision. By 7 p.m. on February 26, only the BJP had submitted a formal letter making its support to Lyngdoh known. Therefore, the Governor had no evidence before him regarding the majority support of one claimant or the other, the communique said.

Marak told Frontline that he was confident of proving his majority. He expected that the three HSPDP legislators, who were with him in the last Ministry, would rejoin him.

The ruling Congress(I) has added one more seat to its previous tally of 24. The rift among the different regional parties helped the party. The UDP lost at least seven seats owing to the split in the Opposition vote. The entry of the BJP as an effective political force in the hilly northeastern region of the State has been a surprise. The party won the Pynthorumkhrah, Laban and Dalu seats in the Khasi heartland for the first time.

The independents, Augustine D. Marak, F.A. Khonglam, Kulart Momin, Pynshai Manik Syiem and Abu Taher Mandal, were elected from Dadengiri, Sohra, Tura, Mylliem and Phulbari respectively.

The MLAs of smaller parties and independents repeatedly shifted their allegiance. Marak has lost the support of the three independents. The UDP also lost three MLAs when the PDM walked out on it on March 6. In such a situation, the positions taken by the five independents are crucial.

The Opposition was also considering another strategy - to make B.B. Lyngdoh the pro tem Speaker before the crucial Assembly session in which Marak will have to prove his majority."As I am the oldest member in the Assembly, I should be chosen pro tem Speaker," Lyngdoh said in a press statement.

Tripura KALYAN CHAUDHURI

THE outcome of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Tripura has reconfirmed the State's position as a Left stronghold in the north-eastern region. The CPI(M)-led ruling Left Front, which retained the State's two Lok Sabha seats, also won a two-thirds majority in the Assembly elections. Bajuban Reang and Samar Chowdhury of the CPI(M) were elected from the East Tripura and West Tripura Lok Sabha constituencies. Samar Chowdhury defeated former Chief Minister Radhika Ranjan Gupta of the Congress(I).

A new Ministry was expected to be sworn in in Agartala on March 10 or 11. Chief Minister Dasarath Deb, who did not contest the Assembly elections owing to failing health, tendered his resignation shortly after the declaration of the results.

A father figure of the Communist movement in Tripura, Dasarath Deb has been elected thrice to the Lok Sabha and four times to the Assembly. Deb, a member of the CPI(M) Central Committee, told Frontline that he had not recommended anyone for the Chief Minister's post and had left the choice to the Central Committee. He said he would devote his time to the extent possible for party work in the State. The Left Front, which adopted progressive policies with regard to development work in the State, has been voted to power for the second time in a row. CPI(M) State secretary and Left Front convener Manik Sarkar was seen as a strong contender for the Chief Minister's post, according to party insiders. It appeared that Deputy Chief Minister Baidyanath Mazumdar was reluctant to take over as Chief Minister owing to poor health.

The Left Front, which has come to power in the State for the fourth time, won 40 seats in the 60-member Assembly. Of the Front constituents, the CPI(M) won 37 seats, the CPI one and the Revolutionary Socialist Party two. The Left Front tally in the previous House was 49.

Despite organisational shortcomings and factional squabbles, the Congress(I) improved its position. It won 14 seats and its allies, the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (TUJS) and the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV), won four and two seats respectively. In the 1993 elections, the Congress(I) got 10 seats and the TUJS one.

Although the Congress(I) emerged as the largest Opposition party, its State president Gopla Roy was defeated in the Teliamura constituency by the Speaker of the outgoing Assembly, Jiten Sarkar. Congress(I) Rajya Sabha member and former Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Barman also lost. TUJS general secretary Rabindra Debbarma and TNV chief Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal were elected to the Assembly.

The BJP, the Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Forward Bloc were in the fray but none of these parties won any seat.

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