Guwahati: As the crisis in Tamil Nadu made ripples nationally, culminating into Saturday's trust vote, in the country's eastern reaches, another political drama with similar twists seems to be catching speed. In Nagaland, where angry tribal protesters have locked down government offices in an indefinite shutdown demanding Chief Minister TR Zeliang's resignation since February 1 over a move to reserve 33 per cent seats in recent local body polls, around 40 ruling Naga National Front (NPF) legislators were taken overnight to a resort in neighbouring Assam's Kaziranga National Park.
The move, similar to one pulled off by the VK Sasikala faction amid its tussle with O Panneerselvam and company in Tamil Nadu, came after the Nagaland legislators submitted a resolution to Governor PB Acharya's office declaring their party president Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu as their choice for next Chief Minister and asked present Mr Zeliang to step down.
On Thursday, the Chief Minister Zeliang and Governor Acharya rushed to New Delhi to discuss the crisis with the centre as a deadline by the Naga Tribe Action committee (NTAC) and the Joint Action Committee (JCC) - the two groups spearheading the protests against Mr Zeliang - to the MLAs to withdraw their support to Mr Zeliang ended.
The protesters say that by allowing 33 per cent reservation for women in the local body polls, the chief minister is trying to dilute the constitutional privilege of the Naga to practise their customary laws. Violence erupted over issue on January 31 in Dimapur, where three youths were killed, and also spread to Kohima where government buildings were burnt down.
A spooked state government annulled the polls held on February 1, but protesters said that the deadlock would continue unless Mr Zeliang resigns.
Many in the political circles believe that former Nagaland Chief Minister and Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio was behind the protests in Kohima. Mr Rio is suspended from the party and now an arch rival of Mr Zeliang. Two years ago, Mr Rio had tried to woo party legislators to his side but the coup was unsuccessful after the party central council stood by Mr Zeliang and threatened the MLAs with expulsion.
According to well-placed sources, the BJP, which is an ally of the NPF in the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government in the state, tried to broker peace yesterday between Mr Rio and Mr Zeliang. BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav was himself involved in the talks, sources added.
Sources indicate that while nearly 40 of the NPF's 46 MLAs want Mr Rio back, both the party president and the party's central council back Mr Zeliang.