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Neiphiu Rio sworn in as Nagaland CM, says will ensure citizens are the real VIP

Neiphiu Rio, who was elected the leader of the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party-led alliance government, on Thursday took the oath for the fourth time as the chief minister of Nagaland and assured more transparency and a “positive change” in the northeastern state.

Yanthungo Patton, the state Bharatiya Janata Party leader, was also sworn in as the deputy chief minister during a high profile ceremony held at the Local Ground in the heart of Kohima, also the venue where the statehood of Nagaland was announced in 1963.

“We have chosen to conduct this programme at this historic venue in honour of the people we are going to serve,” Rio said addressing a public meeting after the oath-taking ceremony.

He also promised to end the “VIP culture” in Nagaland.

“We will ensure the citizens are the real VIP. The people and the masses are the real high command,” the newly-elected chief minister said.

Rio also reiterated his support for the ongoing Naga peace talks for an “honourable solution which is inclusive and acceptable to the people.”

The assembly polls in February threw up a hung verdict, with no party getting the majority when the results were declared last week. Regional behemoth the Naga People’s Front, an ally of the ruling saffron party-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, emerged as the single largest party with 26 MLAs.

Rio and outgoing chief minister TR Zeliang of the NPF staked claim separately to form the government, saying they have the requisite number of legislators in the 60-member assembly.

The NDPP-BJP alliance, forged before the elections, managed to unseat the 15-year rule of the NPF as it garnered the support of the two MLAs to take their tally to 32 in the assembly.

Zeliang submitted his resignation letter to the governor on Tuesday, backing Rio as the new chief minister of Nagaland, putting an end to speculation of an impending constitutional crisis.

The alliance government, christened the Progressive Democratic Alliance, includes 18 NDPP MLAs, 12 from the BJP, an MLA of the Janata Dal(United) and a lone Independent candidate. Earlier, in another flip-flop, the two NPP MLAs withdrew their letter of support to the alliance.

As many as half of the BJP’s elected MLAs are part of the new cabinet.

Along with 67-year-old Rio, 10 cabinet ministers were also administered the oath by governor PB Acharya.

Apart from the deputy chief minister, the new cabinet includes five names from the BJP — SP Phom, PP Konyak, Jacob Zhimomi, VK Sangtam and TI Along. The independent candidate Tongpang Ozukum and JD(U)’s G Kaito Aye were also inducted into the new cabinet.

BJP president Amit Shah, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, and BJP general secretary in-charge of the northeast Ram Madhav were in attendance as the new government was sworn-in.

Apart from the BJP top brass, regional heavyweights, Assam’s chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, his counterparts in Manipur Biren Singh, Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu, and Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya were also present at the Local Ground.

With the BJP choosing to go with its pre-poll alliance partner the NDPP, Zeliang is set to be the leader of the opposition in the assembly. In the outgoing government, all the 60 MLAs sat on the treasury benches.

Interestingly, the two top faces of the government, Rio and Patton both were part of the NPF who jumped the ship owing to a rift in the party.

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