Senior BJP Leaders in Nagaland Rebel Against State President Visasolie Lhongou

State BJP members have sought Amit Shah’s “urgent” intervention in reorganising the party leadership in the poll bound state.

BJP president Amit Shah. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Even though the RSS is keen on veteran Naga leader and Odhisha governor S.C. Jamir as the next vice president, seemingly keeping in mind the BJP’s 2018 electoral prospects in the Christian-dominated Meghalaya and Nagaland, the party may also have to look at reorganising its senior leadership, at least in Nagaland. Many senior leaders from the Nagaland unit of the BJP are on the verge of a virtual rebellion against their president, Visasolie Lhongou.

According to reliable sources in the state unit of the BJP, senior party leaders and workers, led by party advisor and former deputy chief minister I.K. Sema, have written a letter to national party president Amit Shah seeking his “urgent” intervention in its reorganisation. The letter said, “There is an urgent need to reorganise the BJP Nagaland starting with president Visasolie Lhongou.”

The letter, written to Shah in early April, stated, “The state BJP lacks any coordination and strategy at the moment. The overwhelming majority of the functionaries in the districts/mandals are almost on the verge of rebellion.” Terming Lhongou as a “stooge” of the party’s alliance partner, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the senior leaders also urged the central leadership to go it alone in the coming elections. The BJP has been an ally of the NPF since 2003.

Lhongou was appointed as state party president in January 2016. According to the sources, he was elected without an election “even though he was not an active functionary of the party”.

Without naming any particular leader in charge of the Northeast, the sources said the state party members accepted the decision of “some of the central leaders with reservation”. Differences among the state leaders are learnt to have begun in August when a group of eight senior party workers led by Lhongou visited New Delhi to meet some of the BJP’s national leaders, including general secretary Ram Lal and union ministers Prakash Javadekar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Kiren Rijiju and Jual Oram, as well as NDA partner Ram Vilas Paswan. Even though they camped in New Delhi for ten days, prime minister Narendra Modi and party president Shah did not give them an audience.

“Thereafter, Lhongou suggested that a memorandum should be drafted addressing Modi and Shah separately by them and he would send it to their respective offices. However, the senior leaders later learnt that the original memorandum they signed on then was never passed on to Modi or Shah’s office. Instead, Lhongou leaked it to the NPF leadership.”

It has been learnt that another memorandum was drafted by a committee of senior party leaders after the ouster of its MLA M. Kikon from the post of parliamentary secretary by the NPF government in October. The letter to Shah apparently stated that even though the state president submitted a report to the central leadership with regard to the MLA’s ouster on October 31, he, however, told “a blatant lie” to the central leaders that there was no written report on the issue. The sources said the draft memorandum prepared by senior party leaders was submitted to the state president along with copies to all the four MLAs of the BJP.

The senior party leaders alleged that even though Lhongou was invited to the cabinet meeting by NPF leader and then chief minister T. R. Zeliang on the issue of holding urban body polls with 33% reservation for women candidates, he “agreed to it without consulting senior party leaders”. Following violence in the state, Zeliang had to step down from his post.

The BJP leaders accused Lhongou of taking “important decisions at the dictates of the NPF”, reducing BJP “to a mere puppet” and “a mute spectator to all the corruption and misgovernance,” leading people to blame the BJP along with NPF for it.

The sources said the letter was signed by at least 12 senior leaders, including BJP Nagaland vice president Imsu Yaden, former vice president James Vizo, former state spokesperson Yanghose Sangtam and member of the party’s core group Yambos Murray, besides Sema and others.

The Wire was unable to get a response from Lhongou and Sema on the issue.