The state BJP unit has remained silent on the allegations made by Mmhonlumo Kikon on social media.
New Delhi: Legislators raising questions in the house may be considered the norm but it is not so in the Nagaland assembly, is what Mmhonlumo Kikon, a BJP MLA, has claimed.
On February 17, Kikon, one of the four BJP MLAs in the 60-member house, revealed on social media that he had been “threatened” for submitting a few starred and unstarred questions to the assembly secretariat, particularly for those related to appointments made in the state home ministry, and was “asked” to withdrew them.
Though Kikon didn’t name the home minister and Naga People’s Front (NPF) leader Y. Patton, media reports suggested that the “threats” had come through his department’s “intermediaries”.
Asserting that it is the legitimate right of any legislator to pose questions in the assembly “concerning the welfare of the people and especially about good governance in the state,” Kikon wrote on Facebook, “A normal democratic constitutional exercise for any other state, I did not expect the hullabaloo it generated! What was worse was the veiled and open threats to withdraw my starred and unstarred queries and the visits to houses of my family members threatening consequences beyond the political! Why should anyone be scared of normal questions of accountability! This is not the future of Nagaland I imagine and wish for! Let’s face the uncomfortable issues together in the august house and not resort to threats and intimidations! Leave my family alone!”
Though officials in the secretariat denied issuing any threat to him in the local media, 39-year-old Kikon, an MLA from the Bhandari constituency in the state’s Wokha district, told The Wire from Dimapur, “Yes, my family received threats because I submitted some questions in the assembly for the home department. My uncles were told that there would be consequences beyond political if I don’t withdraw the questions.”
He said, “The Nagaland assembly has no opposition. We all are a part of the government. I strongly feel that it is our duty to help the government deliver good governance to the people. However, asking the government a question should not be considered opposing the government. It is also a norm for a ruling party legislator to ask questions to his/her government.”
Besides submitting a set of questions to the home department, he said, “I have also submitted questions under Rule 33 of the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Nagaland legislative assembly, for ministries like the food and civil supplies ministry, health and family welfare, education and roads and bridges.”
Since the budget session of the house will begin on March 21, Kikon refused to elaborate on the specific questions he submitted to the commissioner and secretary of the assembly about the home department, and also on who “threatened” his family. He, however, said, “I will not withdraw the questions.”
He further added, “I have not filed an FIR yet, the house will be on, let’s see if it is taken into cognisance.”
According to some media reports, Kikon also received text messages from the supporters of the state home minister threatening him to withdrew the questions. Kikon, however, refused to confirm or deny it.
Meanwhile, the questions – three in total – that allegedly attracted the ire of the home department, are circulating in the social media across the state. Kikon reportedly asked the following questions:
- How many appointments were made from year 2013 to 2017?
- What has been the appointment process and procedure followed for constables, havaldars, ASI, ABSI/UBSI, NPTO SI and MTSI and the third grade clerical posts for the years 2014-17?
- Furnish the newspapers advertisements for the same posts before the interviews were called and conducted, if any?
Allegations of “backdoor appointment” to government jobs have been raised by civil society organisations in the state for some time. They have been alleging that such appointments have been done by the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government without following the set procedures, such as issuing advertisements, holding interviews, etc.
Indirectly referring to such a trend, state education minister and NPF spokesperson Yitachu said last year, “Nagaland has 70,000 excess employees, out of the total 1,40,000 government employees.” Since employee salaries comprise 65% of the state funds, as per the government’s own records, many allege that the government has been directing funds meant for other departments to pay the salaries.
In June 2016, though the government issued a notification as per which appointments would be made only against vacancies, NPF president and now the state chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu reportedly wrote to all cabinet ministers in February, 2016, to regularise such appointments after three years of service to avoid those employees going against the party. He reminded them, again in a letter on March 20, 2016, that “If we abruptly change the course, more than 1,000 people will go against you in your next election, like [the] 1993 episode where more than 800 senior people went against us on the issue of superannuation of age.”
The BJP is a part of the NPF-led DAN government. Besides Kikon, it has two other MLAs – Imtilemba Sangtam and T.M. Lotha. All three were elected to the assembly on NCP tickets in 2013. In June 2014, they defected to the BJP.
Last October, the then state chief minister T.R. Zeliang removed Kikon from the post of parliamentary secretary for “anti-DAN government activities”. Many in the BJP, however, said it was because Kikon, an activist-turned politician, raised questions on corruption. Though there were reports of pressure on the state BJP leadership then to withdrew from the government, state party president Viusasolie Lloungu refused to do it. It led some in the party to accuse him of “siding with NPF.”
Till now, the state BJP unit has not responded to the allegation made by Kikon against the home department. Attempts by this correspondent to reach Lloungu did not illicit a response.