KOHIMA: Contesting the July 29 by-elections for ousted Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu now seems a mere formality. Ending his election campaign within hours of launching it on Wednesday was indicative of his disinterest in the polls.
But Liezietsu said, “My son (Khriehu Liezietsu) and his friends are working for me as I am busy with party affairs”. Octogenarian Liezietsu is the chief of the Naga People’s Front (NPF).
In June, his son had resigned from the Assembly so that the unelected Liezietsu could contest the by-elections. Victory would have ensured his continuance as chief minister but he was dethroned ahead of the battle of ballots by a group of NPF MLAs at the end of the two-week long power struggle that saw
T R Zeliang recapture the CM’s chair.
Zeliang was forced to resign in February following violent protests by some tribal organisations against his government’s move to hold civic elections with 33 per cent reservation for women. Subsequently, the NPF unanimously transferred power to Liezietsu. Addressing his only rally, Liezietsu, who is up against Independent Kekhrie Yhome, said he was compelled to face the election and sought conscience votes. “Money plays a major role in elections in Nagaland as well as elsewhere. So, I would make an appeal to voters to cast a conscience vote,” he told the New Indian Express ahead of the rally in Northern Angami-1 constituency.
The NPF now has two factions, each led by Liezietsu and Zeliang. Liezietsu claims the party workers are still with him but Zeliang is supported by most of the 47 NPF MLAs. Thirty of them, including Zeliang, have been either expelled or suspended by the NPF.
Asked about his involvement in the by-poll, Zeliang said, “As a member of the NPF, I convey my best wishes to him (Liezietsu) but whether he wins or loses doesn’t matter to us.” The CM enjoys the support of 48 MLAs in the 60-member House that now has an effective strength of 59 following Khriehu’s resignation.
Citing a reason of the rebellion against him, Liezietsu said “some of my own colleagues had gone against me” as his government was taking a tough position on the MKR Pillai case. A consultant to Nagaland Police following his retirement as an officer, Pillai had built a business empire worth crores. There are rumours in Nagaland that a section of politicians and senior government officials, invested black money in Pillai’s firms.