The Bharatiya Janata Party’s reign in alliance with regional parties in three north-eastern States began on a youthful note on Tuesday with Conrad Kongkal Sangma, 40, being sworn in as Meghalaya Chief Minister. The day also saw State BJP president Biplab Kumar Deb, 48, being named Chief Minister of the party’s first government in Tripura while Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang resigned to pave the way for veteran Neiphiu Rio to take charge of an alliance government of the BJP and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).
On Tuesday morning, Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad administered the oath of office to Mr. Sangma and 11 Cabinet Ministers at the Raj Bhavan in Meghalaya capital Shillong. Mr. Sangma, a Lok Sabha member, is the president of the National People’s Party (NPP). Of the 11 Ministers, four are from NPP, three from the United Democratic Party, two from the People’s Democratic Front and one each from the Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the BJP. Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Jual Oram and BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav met the 35 new MLAs in Tripura capital Agartala to choose Mr. Deb as the CM.
The announcement came after almost 48 hours of clashes allegedly between the BJP and the CPI(M) supporters that left more than 1,500 families homeless and 350 people injured.
The BJP had after ending 25 years of communist rule on March 3 said Mr. Deb was the frontrunner for the CM’s post. The announcement of his name on Tuesday was a mere formality.
The choice of Mr. Dev Varma, head of the State BJP’s tribal front, was also not in doubt since ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) had sought “an honourable” representation of tribal leaders in the coalition government.
Mr. Varma, 69, is the BJP candidate for the Charilam Assembly seat where the election was countermanded due to the death of CPI(M) nominee Ramendra Narayan Debbarma on February 11. The re-poll is slated on March 12.
“We will ensure good governance and peace,” Mr. Deb, 48, said before leading a BJP-IPFT team to meet Governor Taghatata Roy and stake claim to form the government. The oath-taking ceremony, he said, would take place on March 9 at the expansive Assam Rifles ground in Agartala.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his Cabinet colleagues, BJP president Amit Shah and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States are expected to attend the ceremony.
The BJP, with 35 MLAs, also held a meeting with the eight newly-elected IPFT legislators for working out the portfolios. The tribal party has demanded four berths in the Deb Ministry, but the BJP is unwilling to give two as only a maximum 12 can be accommodated in the Council of Minsters in Tripura.
In Nagaland capital Kohima, a two-day drama over T.R. Zeliang’s bid to wean the BJP away from rival regional party NDPP and form the government ended after he met Governor P.B. Acharya and tendered his resignation at 4 pm.
His resignation has paved the way for the 67-year-old Mr. Rio, who had been Chief Minister for three terms before deciding to be a Parliamentarian in 2014. He fell out with Mr. Zeliang and quit his Naga People’s Front (NPF) party and joined the NDPP.
The NPF emerged as the single largest party with 26 seats but the NDPP-BJP got 30 and managed support from an independent and the lone Janata Dal (United) legislator.
“We will ensure a government that focuses on development besides trying to settle the Naga political issue,” Mr. Rio said.
BJP leader Y. Patton is tipped to be named the Deputy CM ahead of the swearing-in on March 8.
( With Vijaita Singh and Syed Sajjad Ali )